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

Back in Time

Historical Perspective

Only in Canada, Eh?

Zamboni navigates the roundabout

Shamanic dog training comes to Clearwater

The Shamanic Dog Training Retreat helps owners teach with trust, understanding and freedom

El Nido Fly-in flies again

Forecasts were less than ideal for paragliding, but the weather held out for most of the event

VIDEO: Facebook rolls out tool to block off-Facebook data gathering

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the “clear history” feature more than a year ago

B.C. rainbow crosswalk covered in mysterious black substance

Black substance spilled intentionally near Vancouver Island school and difficult to remove

RCMP originally planned to arrest Meng Wanzhou on plane, defence lawyers say

The allegations have not been proven in court. Meng was arrested Dec. 1 at Vancouver airport at the behest of the U.S.

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Ethics commissioner ready to testify on Trudeau, SNC-Lavalin: NDP critic

A new poll suggests the report hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall

Inflation hits Bank of Canada 2% target for second straight month

Prices showed strength in other areas, including an 18.9 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

Pregnant teachers fight to change WorkSafeBC compensation rules

Agency does not recognize risk to unborn babies when mother catches illness from work

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

Most Read