Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty to new charges
Robert Bowers accused of murdering 11 people at a Shabbat service at Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018; his new lawyer also represented Unabomber, 9/11 conspirator; prosecutors still mulling whether to pursue the death penalty.
Robert Bowers, a truck driver who allegedly gunned down 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue, appeared in federal court with his new lawyer, prominent death penalty litigator Judy Clarke, who signaled 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.
Bowers, who was shackled, said little, giving yes or no answers.
A grand jury on January 29 added 19 counts to the 44 that 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 kilometers) north of the shooting scene. If convicted of the most serious offenses, 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.”