Cornell student accused of threatening Jewish people had mental health struggles, mother says

The mother of a Cornell University student accused of making online threats against Jewish people on campus said Tuesday he had mental health struggles and posted an apology soon after the posts.

Patrick Dai, 21, faces a federal charge of posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications after authorities say he made threatening comments on an online Greek Life forum late last month. The anonymous postings included threats to shoot and stab Jewish people on the upstate New York campus, rattling students and prompting police to increase security.

Dai admitted that he posted the threatening messages in an interview with law enforcement authorities, according to the federal complaint.

Dai’s mother, Bing Liu, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that she believes the threats were partly triggered by medication he was taking to treat depression and anxiety. She also shared an apology posting she said was given to her by Dai’s defense lawyers after they received evidence collected in the case.

The anonymous post, first reported on by the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, apologizes to the Cornell community for “divisive statements.” The post says no amount of depression, loneliness or isolation is an excuse for terroristic threats.

“Shameful, calling for violence against people solely because of a cruel war a thousand miles away," reads the post made hours after the last online threat. "Even more shameful because there is no excuse for the targeting of innocent civilians, much less my classmates.”

Liu said prosecutors and the FBI should have shared the apology so the public would have a fuller picture of the incident.

“The public... should know the whole story,” said Liu, who described her son as a kind and helpful person who was working to improve his mental health.

An email seeking verification and information about the posting was sent to Dai's federal public defender. The FBI and federal prosecutors said they had no comment.

Dai had earlier taken three semesters off. He was prescribed an anti-depressant this year, but Dai had complained that the medication was not effective. The family from the Rochester suburb of Pittsford planned to meet with a therapist to consider a change, according to his mother.

Liu said she had been taking Dai home for weekends because of his depression and that he was home the weekend the threats went online. She returned Dai to Cornell on the morning of Oct. 30.

Dai was taken into custody the next day and suspended from Cornell. He was being held in an upstate New York jail as he awaits a bail hearing Thursday.

Liu said she worries about his mental health.