Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect, Robert Bowers pleads not guilty to Federal charges

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Defense attorneys for the suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre entered a plea of not guilty Thursday to federal charges and requested a jury trial.

This courtroom sketch depicts Robert Bowers, who was wounded in a gun battle with police, as he appeared in a wheelchair in federal court on Monday. (Dave Klug/ AP)

Robert Bowers, 46, the man alleged to have killed 11 Jewish worshippers at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27, walked into court in wrist, waist and ankle restraints, with a large bandage on his upper left arm. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds during a shootout with police and was released from the hospital three days ago.

Mr Bowers was initially facing 29 charges but, on Wednesday, US prosecutors added a further 15 charges. He now faces a total of 44 counts of murder, hate crimes, obstructing religious practices and other crimes. Of the 44 charges, 32 counts are punishable by death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

According to an affidavit, Mr Bowers told police immediately after his arrest that “he wanted all Jews to die”.

During the arraignment, Bowers watched prosecutors and nodded periodically. He responded “yes” that he understood the penalties of the charges, and his public defender, Michael J. Novara, entered a plea of not guilty, “as is typical,” he said.

It was also discovered that Mr Bowers had an account on a social networking site called Gab where he shared posts that featured anti-Semitic slurs and anti-immigrant sentiments, including a post saying “I can’t sit by and watch…Screw your optics, I’m going in,” that was uploaded just before the shooting.

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Gab is a social network popular among alt-right members, which doesn’t have strict guidelines like other popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Authorities called the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue the worst anti-Semitic incident in US history.

Bowers is being held at the Butler County Jail without bond.

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