A Brooklyn man accused of murdering a 66-year-old professor after a war of words over immigration is claiming self-defense, his attorney said Friday.
Through attorney Jay Schwitzman, Mirzo Atadzhanov, 28, of Brooklyn, entered a plea of not guilty for murder and burglary charges in the May 7 death of Jeremy Safran, a professor of psychology at The New School for Social Research as well as New York University’s Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis.
According to court papers, Safran hired Atadzhanov to “work on his lights” in his home, even though Atadzhanov said he wasn’t an electrician.
The New York Daily News reported that Safran, a Canadian, wasn’t satisfied with Atadzhanov’s work, complaining: “This country cannot benefit from immigrants.”
Atadzhanov, who claimed to be from Tajikistan, said he was offended, and their fight escalated.
Atadzhanov said Safran tried to stab him with a combat knife, and he “followed his instincts,” according to court documents.
Prosecutors, however, claim that Safran was working out when Atadzhanov broke into his home and attacked him.
The Daily News reported that a neighbor saw Atadzhanov going in and out of the house, and called Safran’s wife to warn her.
Police had gone to the home to investigate a report of a burglary in progress when they found Safran in the basement with trauma to his head and body.
In his statement to police, Atadzhanov said that “the wife came down the stairs with a pit bull,” and scared him into a closet in the basement, where cops found him hiding inside with several tools, including a hammer.
“He is mourned and loved by hundreds of young students and by colleagues who he has touched around the world,” said Dr. Lewis Aron, Director at NYU’s Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis about Safran last month. “It is mind numbing to me that this brilliant but so gentle and kind man met such a brutal and violent end.”
In 2016, Mirzo Atadzhanov escaped an attempted rape and other charges: Charges dismissed against Couchsurfing host accused of raping Canadian woman in his NYC home
A Canadian tourist who arranged to crash at a Brooklyn man’s apartment told cops her host tried to rape her Sunday, but the case fell apart at the man’s court appearance, law enforcement sources said.
The 23-year-old woman told cops she used a knife to fend off Mirzo Atadzhanov, 27, after they arranged for her to stay at his place through the home-sharing website couchsurfing.com, sources said.
Atadzhanov was arrested on attempted rape, assault and forcible touching charges after the woman called police — but the charges were dismissed at his arraignment, a law enforcement source said. The reason for the dismissal was not immediately disclosed.
The woman, a German native who had recently moved to Canada, was inside the apartment on Homecrest Ave. near Shore Parkway in Sheepshead Bay when she claimed Atadzhanov attacked her.
The woman told cops Atadzhanov approached her inside his apartment about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, officials said. He pulled down his pants and threw her onto the bed, where he punched her repeatedly and tried to rape her, she said.
She told police she broke free and ran into the kitchen, where she grabbed a knife and cut Atadzhanov on the hand and knee.
The woman then ran to the bedroom and crawled out a window, scaling down the fire escape to the ground, officials said.
Cops arrested Atadzhanov, and doctors treated his cuts at Coney Island Hospital, officials said.
The alleged victim was rattled, but not physically harmed. The Daily News is not disclosing her name.
Atadzhanov is a devout Muslim who attends Brooklyn College, family members told The News. He joined couchsurfing.com so he could find places to stay for free when he traveled.
And he was on Twitter @Mirzomuslim.
Not the first university professor in New York to be killed by a Muslim.