MAYVILLE, N.Y. – The criminal case against the man charged with stabbing author Salman Rushdie involves so much potential evidence that prosecutors need more time to review it, the chief prosecutor said Wednesday.
District Attorney Jason Schmidt of Chautauqua County in western New York said his office is reviewing about “30,000 files,” without providing details. He said the volume of material entitled him to additional time to comply with a requirement to turn over evidence to suspect Hadi Matar's attorney.
Matar’s lawyer, Nathaniel Barone, questioned the need for delay. Prosecutors typically must share evidence within 20 days of an arraignment.
“Just because there may be volumes of discovery out there, that doesn’t change the fact that that’s their job,” Barone said after the hearing, the Observer of Dunkirk reported. “They better get to it and we’re entitled to it.”
Prosecutors say Matar, 24, stabbed Rushdie in the neck, stomach, chest, hand and right eye at an Aug. 12 literary event in western New York, before onlookers intervened. Rushdie had been sitting in a chair onstage at the Chautauqua Institution waiting to be introduced for a discussion of protections for writers in exile and freedom of expression.
The author was recovering in a Pennsylvania hospital in the days after the attack. A Rushdie family lawyer did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking an update on his condition.
Henry Reese, the cofounder of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, was onstage with Rushdie and suffered a gash to his forehead, bruises and other minor injuries.
Matar, who has been held without bail since his arrest, arrived at Chautauqua County Court in a black-and-white striped jail jumpsuit, wearing shackles and a white medical face mask. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault. Matar lived with his mother in Fairview, New Jersey.
He is due back in court Sept. 13 when a judge will hear arguments on a prosecution request to limit who is allowed to review material disclosed ahead of trial, according to Schmidt, the district attorney. Schmidt did not rule out additional charges, pending the continuing investigation
In a jailhouse interview with The New York Post after his arrest, Matar spoke about disliking Rushdie and praised Iran’s late supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini issued an edict in 1989 demanding Rushdie’s death over his novel “The Satanic Verses,” which some Muslims consider blasphemous. Iran has denied involvement in the attack.
Rushdie spent years in hiding but had traveled freely over the past two decades.