FILE - 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. (Steph Chamber/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP, File)

Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Robert Bowers is accused of gunning down 11 people at Tree of Life Synagogue

The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges Monday as his new lawyer, a prominent death penalty litigator who represented one of the Boston Marathon bombers, signalled he might be open to a plea deal.

Robert Bowers, a truck driver who authorities say gunned down 11 people at Tree of Life Synagogue, appeared in federal court with attorney Judy Clarke, who expressed hope the case will be resolved without a trial.

Clarke is known for negotiating plea deals that helped some of the nation’s most infamous killers avoid death row, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph and Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people and injured 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A jury sentenced marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whom Clarke represented, to death.

Prosecutors in Pittsburgh have yet to announce whether they will pursue the death penalty against Bowers. Asked if the government would consider a plea deal that spares Bowers a potential death sentence, U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said in a statement Monday: “The defendant is charged with crimes that carry the maximum possible penalty of death. We are committed to seeking justice for the victims and their families in this case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti said in court that a trial could last about three weeks, not including any potential penalty phase.

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, during Sabbath services.

Seven people were wounded, including five police officers.

READ MORE: B.C. synagogues hold vigil to mourn Pittsburgh shooting victims

READ MORE: Synagogue gunman said he wanted all Jews to die, police say

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.”

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 raged against Jews as he gunned down his victims, and told investigators “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.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this story.

Ramesh Santanam, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Crosley Road blaze destroys pair of side-by-side structures

Bow Horn Bay Volunteer Fire Department reports no one injured, blaze quickly extinguished

Kwalikum Kondors clip Thunderbirds to earn Islands berth

Head coach Wilson says it’s the best game the Kondors played this season

Wine, beer and foodies unite to celebrate 11th annual Parksville Uncorked

Four-day festival takes place from Feb. 21 to 24

SD69 students hope to send artwork to space

The winning patches will accompany an experiment designed by five students from Ballenas

Review: Show about the show delights at Qualicum Beach premiere

A combination of hilarity and tender moments for Second Chances musical

VIDEO: The Art of Surfboard Making

Hand-made, handpainted surfboard by Parksville couple

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read