NEW YORK - A woman accused of pushing a man to his death in front of a subway train told police she did so because she blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11 attacks, and because "I thought it would be cool," prosecutors said at a court hearing.
Erika Menendez was charged Saturday night with murder as a hate crime after she told police she spontaneously pushed Sunando Sen.
She laughed so hard during her arraignment in Queens criminal court that Judge Gia Morris told her lawyer: "You're going to have to have your client stop laughing."
Defense attorney Dietrich Epperson said Menendez's behavior in court was no different from how she had been acting when he spoke to her privately, and said his client didn't really think the proceedings were funny. He represented her for the arraignment only and had no further comment.
Menendez was held without bail and ordered to have a mental health exam. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 14.
Prosecutors said Menendez pushed Sen, a 46-year-old native of India, to his death Thursday night because she blamed "Muslims, Hindus and Egyptians" for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims - ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up," Menendez told police, according to the Queens district attorney's office.
Friends and co-workers said Sen, a native of Calcutta, was Hindu. He had lived in Queens for decades and was a graphic designer and copy shop owner. Sen was standing on an elevated platform of the 7 train that travels between Manhattan and Queens when he was shoved from behind as the train entered the station.