MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office is going through tens of thousands of pieces of evidence as it builds its case against Hadi Matar, the New Jersey resident accused of stabbing Salman Rushdie last month, as the world-renowned author continues to recover.
On Wednesday, Matar was back in county court with public defender Nathaniel Barone and district attorney Jason Schmidt for a discovery conference. Schmidt is required by law to turn over the evidence he has to the defense team within 20 days of the indictment, which took place on August 18. Schmidt told Judge David Foley that the prosecution said about “30,000 files” what they go through. He called it “exceptionally voluminous.”
No decision was made. Both parties will appear in court again on Tuesday.
After the court, Barone said he understands the prosecutor’s office has a lot of material, but he said they are still required to follow the laws. “We have a right to protection of the process. … Just because Mr. Matar has been charged or charged with what he has been accused of does not change that fact and just because there may be large amounts of discoveries does not change the fact that that is their job. They better get it and we have a right to it.” he said.
Matar has been charged with attempted second-degree murder for the alleged Rushdie stabbing. He was also charged with second-degree assault for allegedly physically injuring another person during the stabbing. That other person was Ralph Henry Reese, 73, who was onstage when Rushdie was attacked.
Matar attacked 75-year-old Rushdie on August 12 at the Chautauqua Institute. He spoke at a special lecture series exploring the theme of week seven “More than shelter” and was joined by Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum. The pair would discuss the United States as a haven for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression. Reese suffered a minor head injury in the attack.
Rushdie’s book “The Devil’s Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, demanding the death of Rushdie. There is also a bounty of more than $3 million on offer for anyone who kills Rushdie.
After the court hearing Wednesday, Schmidt said fortunately it appears that Rushdie will not be killed in the attack, but he is still investigating the possibility of raising the charges, depending on what the investigation reveals.