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

City of Nanaimo needs a new garbage truck due to population growth

New automated truck comes with price tag of $430,000

NDSS senior girls win Vancouver Island basketball championship

Nanaimo District wins first AAA girls’ Island title in 29 years

WEB POLL: What’s Nanaimo’s worst intersection?

ICBC stats say the old Island Highway, Bowen Road and Norwell Drive is the worst. What do you say?

Nanaimo RCMP and police dog track suspect through wintry backcountry

Assault suspect arrested after two-hour track by police dog Jager through snow and steep terrain

VIU volleyball teams bound for provincials

Vancouver Island University Mariners men and women in contention at PacWest championships

Western Edge’s New Waves Festival brings new plays to Harbour City Theatre

Nanaimo and Denman Island playwrights to have work premiered this week

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Most Read