NEW YORK (AP) — A businessman attacked a Muslim employee at a Kennedy Airport lounge, kicking her, shouting obscenities at her and saying that President Donald Trump “will get rid of all of you,” authorities said.
Robin Rhodes, of Worcester, Massachusetts, had arrived from Aruba and was awaiting a connecting flight to Massachusetts on Wednesday night when he approached Rabeeya Khan, who wears a hijab, at the Sky Club in Terminal 2 while she was sitting in the utility office, authorities said. Khan is a contracted employee based at the Sky Club and works for a facility services company called ISS, according to Delta.
Khan told police that Rhodes came to the door and went on a profanity-laced tirade, asking her if she was praying, District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. Rhodes then punched the door, which hit the back of Khan’s chair, he said. The 60-year-old Khan asked Rhodes what she had done to him and Rhodes said she’d done nothing, authorities said. He then cursed at her and kicked her in the leg, Khan told police.
When another person tried to calm him down, Rhodes moved away from the door and Khan ran out of the office to the front desk at the club, authorities said. Rhodes, 57, followed her, got down on his knees and began to bow down to imitate Muslim prayers and shouted obscenities, investigators said.
Khan recalled Rhodes saying: “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kinds of people. You see what happens,” prosecutors said.
At the time of his arrest, Rhodes told officers, “I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct,” Brown said.
The airline condemned the behavior in a statement Friday.
“What happened in this incident is totally unacceptable and Delta has made its stance clear on these types of events,” Delta said in the statement. “People who are violent or exhibit bullying behavior are not welcome.”
Rhodes appeared in court Thursday night on charges of assault and menacing as hate crimes and is being held on $30,000 bail. He was represented by a public defender for the court hearing, but will have to get his own attorney for subsequent proceedings. His next court date is Feb. 8.
His mother, Dorothy Rhodes, said the behavior alleged by authorities is uncharacteristic of her son.
“It’s not like him at all,” she said. “He’s not a violent person. He’s very kind.”
Robin Rhodes is the president of Nitrofreeze Cryogenic Solutions, a metals company based in Worcester.
Dorothy Rhodes said her son “goes out of his way to hire people of different races and ethnicities.”
But the district attorney said Robin Rhodes displayed bigotry and hatred that “have no place in a civilized society — especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation.”
Khan works as a locker room attendant and was taking some time off, her employer said.
“Our main priority right now is to ensure that the involved employee knows how much we support and value her,” ISS said in a statement. “When she is ready, we look forward to her safe return to work.”
Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this report.
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