Prosecutors are asking for more time to prepare the case against the man charged with stabbing author Salman Rushdie due to the volume of evidence against him.
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, 24, is accused of storming the stage where Rushdie was set to deliver a speech at the Chautauqua Institution last month and stabbing the author multiple times in the neck and chest, sending him to the hospital with severe injuries that required him to be placed on a ventilator.
Matar, who has been held without bail since his arrest, arrived at Chautauqua County Court on Wednesday 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’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."
No decision was made on the timing of reviewing the evidence, which the prosecution referred to as "exceptionally voluminous." Matar 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. 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’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised a bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Over the years, Rushdie has been an outspoken supporter of the freedom of expression and has endured death threats that at one time caused him to go into hiding with round-the-clock security.
Iran has denied involvement in the attack, but also condemned Rushdie following the stabbing, calling him an "apostate" who has authored "blasphemous" writings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.