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Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty
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PITTSBURGH - The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre pleaded not guilty Monday to a new indictment that added 19 additional counts, but his lawyer expressed hope the case will be resolved without a trial.

Robert Bowers, a truck driver who authorities say gunned down 11 people at Tree of Life Synagogue, appeared in federal court with his new lawyer, prominent death penalty litigator Judy Clarke, who signalled that Bowers might be open to some sort of plea. Clarke’s past clients have included one the Boston Marathon bombers, a 9-11 conspirator and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

In this Oct. 27, 2018 photo, Rabbi Eli Wilansky lights a candle after a mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Robert Bowers, a truck driver accused of killing 11 and wounding seven during an attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue in October is expected to appear Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, morning in a federal courtroom to be arraigned on additional charges.  (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP, File / Steph Chamber)

This undated Pennsylvania Department of Transportation photo shows Robert Bowers. Bowers, a truck driver accused of killing 11 and wounding seven during an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018 is expected to appear Monday morning, Feb. 11, 2019, in a federal courtroom to be arraigned on additional charges.  (AP, File / Pennsylvania Department of Transportation)

This undated Pennsylvania Department of Transportation photo shows Robert Bowers. Bowers, a truck driver accused of killing 11 and wounding seven during an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018 is expected to appear Monday morning, Feb. 11, 2019, in a federal courtroom to be arraigned on additional charges.  (AP, File / Pennsylvania Department of Transportation)

Bowers, who was shackled, said little, giving yes or no answers.

A grand jury on Jan. 29 added 19 counts to the 44 Bowers was already facing. The additional charges include hate crimes violations, obstruction of religious belief and the use of a firearm during crimes of violence.

Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, is accused of targeting worshippers from three Jewish congregations when he attacked Saturday, Oct. 27, while Sabbath services were being held.

Seven people were wounded, including five police officers.

Investigators say Bowers posted criticism of a Jewish charity on social media before the attack, claiming the immigrant aid society “likes to bring invaders that kill our people.” Authorities said he told investigators that “all these Jews need to die.”

Bowers has been jailed in the Butler County Prison, about 35 miles (55 kilometres) north of the shooting scene. If convicted of the most serious offences, he could be sentenced to life without parole.

A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said a decision about whether to pursue the death penalty against Bowers remains under review.

Donna Coufal, a member of the Dor Hadash congregation that occupies space at Tree of Life, said she attended Monday’s arraignment “to bear witness. It’s been a painful time, but we remain strong as a community.”
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