A Queens woman accused of fatally pushing an Indian immigrant in front of a subway train on Dec. 27, and later saying that she hated Hindus and Muslims because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has been deemed mentally fit to stand trial, a State Criminal Court justice said on Monday morning.
Prosecutors said the woman, Erika Menendez, 31, selected her victim because she believed he was a Muslim or a Hindu. She is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
Ms. Menendez is accused of shoving Sunando Sen in front of a No. 7 train at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Queens. Mr. Sen was raised as a Hindu in India, according to those who knew him.
The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, said that she had told detectives in essence that she “pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers,” and that she had attacked them before.
Ms. Menendez conflated the Muslim and Hindu faiths in her comments to the police and in her target for her attack, law enforcement officials said.
The declaration of her mental state came during a hearing in which prosecutors announced her formal indictment on one count of second-degree murder as a hate crime and two counts of second-degree murder.
“The defendant is charged with having been motivated by hate when she allegedly shoved an innocent man into the path of an oncoming train,” Mr. Brown said in a statement. “The violence of the attack has no place in a civilized society – and especially in Queens County, which is proudly known as one of the most diverse counties in the country.”
Ms. Menendez acted unruly and irreverent after her arrest and during her arraignment, often smiling, which raised questions about her mental stability. She was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. On Monday, Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt announced the determination in court.
Ms. Menendez’s lawyer, Steven M. Raiser, said there might be another application filed with the court seeking to again determine his client’s mental fitness.
Ms. Menendez is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on Jan. 29. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. The charge of murder as a hate crime raises the possible minimum sentence she faces to 20 years from 15 years, according to prosecutors.