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Ex-Obama official reaches deal to avoid prosecution for racist abuse of NYC food truck vendor

A former Obama White House official who hurled Islamophobic abuse at a New York City food truck vendor will be allowed to undergo “anti-bias” training to avoid a hate crime prosecution.

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, was arrested in November after he unleashed a torrent of abuse on Mohamed Hussein at the Adam Halal Food Cart on New York’s Upper East Side.

Mr Seldowitz appeared in court on Wednesday where he agreed to submit to a 26-week anti-bias programme at Queens Counseling for Change at the prosecutor’s request, according to Vice News.

If he completes the programme and does not violate the terms of a witness protection order, the case against him will be dismissed, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Cellphone footage of three separate incidents where Mr Seldowitz harassed the vendor went viral after being posted to social media.

Mr Hussein, 24, told The Independent in an interview at the time how the former National Security Council adviser ridiculed his religion, taunted him about his immigration status and threatened his family in Egypt.

“I was terrified, I just kept quiet,” Mr Hussein said, speaking in Arabic as food truck owner Islam Moustafa translated.

Stuart Seldowitz was arrested in November after hurling racist abuse at a food truck vendor on New York’s Upper East Side (X / @itslaylas)
Stuart Seldowitz was arrested in November after hurling racist abuse at a food truck vendor on New York’s Upper East Side (X / @itslaylas)

The first encounter took place on the morning of 7 November, when Mr Seldowitz allegedly pushed open the food truck window on the corner of East 83rd St and 2nd Ave while staff were preparing to open for the day.

Mr Seldowitz asked where the vendor was from, to which he responded Egypt.

“You guys support Hamas, you’re a terrorist, and you guys like killing Jewish people,” Mr Seldowitz says in one of the videos.

Mohamed Hussein, 24, was racially abused by former Obama national security adviser Stuart Seldowitz (Bevan Hurley)
Mohamed Hussein, 24, was racially abused by former Obama national security adviser Stuart Seldowitz (Bevan Hurley)

Mr Seldowitz returned to the food truck on three further occasions over the following three weeks to harass staff, the owner said.

Mr Hussein shared the cellphone footage with a friend, which went viral after it was posted to X/Twitter on 21 November.

In the video Mr Seldowitz, who worked on Israel-Palestine policy for the US State Department, can be heard insulting the Prophet Muhammad and berating the vendor over the Israel-Hamas war.

“If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough,” he said.

Mr Seldowitz later offered a half-hearted apology in media interviews, telling City and State he was not Islamophobic and regretted raising Mr Hussein’s religion.

He was taken into custody on 22 November on charges including aggravated harassment, hate crimes, and stalking.

Mr Seldowitz’s attorney Scott Bookstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He is due to appear in court again on 17 April.