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Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Written by Ramesh Santanam/The Associated Press | Feb 11, 2019 9:47 AM
Tree of Life Hannukah.jpg

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers leads a gathering in Hanukkah songs after lighting a menorah outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. A gunman shot and killed 11 people while they worshipped Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 at the temple. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

This story has been updated with additional details.

(Pittsburgh) -- The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogogue massacre pleaded not guilty Monday to a new indictment that added 19 additional counts, but his lawyer expressed hope the case will be resolved without a trial.

Robert Bowers, a truck driver who authorities say gunned down 11 people at 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.

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This undated Pennsylvania Department of Transportation photo shows Robert Bowers. (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation via AP)

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, 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."

An earlier version of this story appears below.

(Pittsburgh) -- A truck driver accused of killing 11 people and wounding seven during an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue has pleaded not guilty.

Forty-six-year-old Robert Bowers was in federal court Monday and pleaded not guilty to a new indictment that added 19 additional counts.

His attorney, Judy Clarke, says the defense is hoping the case can be resolved without going to trial. Clarke is a noted death penalty lawyer whose past clients have included one of the Boston Marathon bombers, a 9/11 conspirator and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

The new charges against Bowers include hate crime violations, obstructing religious belief and using a firearm during crimes of violence.

Authorities say Bowers raged against Jews during and after the attack.

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