Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty

PITTSBURGH (AP) — 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, signaled 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.

RELATED: Victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh

Victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh
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Victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh

Jerry Rabinowitz reportedly died running into the gunfire to help those who had been injured, according to The Independent. Rabinowtiz was also honoured posthumously by The AIDS Memorial, which remembered him on social media for his work with HIV/AIDS patients in Pittsburgh. The post featured a person with HIV/AIDS describing Rabinowitz as being “known in the community for keeping us alive the longest,” saying he often held HIV/AIDS patients’ hands without gloves.

(Photo: Instagram/TheAIDSMemorial)

Rose Mallinger, 97 May her memory be a blessing https://t.co/F7d0AGtAU8
Brothers Cecil & David Rosenthal @ACHIEVA: Cecil’s laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle s… https://t.co/17B73Dwcwk

This undated photo provided by Barry Werber shows Melvin Wax. Wax was killed when a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.

(Courtesy of Barry Werber via AP)

Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 & 86, were married at Tree of Life in the 1950s. Bernice was a retired nurse and Sylva… https://t.co/AQk7kRrnx7
'A very special person:' Canadian Joyce Fienberg killed in #Pittsburgh: https://t.co/M7fsuz7VY3 https://t.co/1Xo0orpI3s
Richard Gottfried and his wife, Peg, were of different faiths, but shared a mission to help the neediest. Married 3… https://t.co/5cGsjQWHfk
The identities of those killed and injured in a mass shooting at Squirrel Hill's Tree of Life Synagogue this mornin… https://t.co/fA3BRuojXi
Irving Younger, 69 Younger was a real estate agent, the president of a local business association, a voluteer at… https://t.co/1b79TCHuqH

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.

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 kilometers) north of the shooting scene.


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

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