Synagogue Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to 109 Charges

John Earnest faces federal hate crime charges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2019 12:23 AM CDT
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In this April 30, 2019 photo, John T. Earnest appears for his arraignment hearing in San Diego.   (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool, File)
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(Newser) – The man suspected of killing a woman in a shooting at a southern California synagogue pleaded not guilty to 109 federal hate crime charges Tuesday. John T. Earnest spoke twice during the brief hearing—to acknowledge his name and to say he agreed with his court-appointed attorney's decision against seeking bail. Earnest, 19, is charged with bursting into the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27 and opening fire with an assault rifle, killing one and injuring three. The federal charges include two for each of the 54 worshippers who were present. Peter Ko, an assistant US attorney, told the judge that the government had not decided whether to seek the death penalty. He reaffirmed plans to try Earnest separately and simultaneously with a state charge of murder that is classified as a hate crime, which also exposes Earnest to a potential death sentence, the AP reports.

A federal affidavit for the hate crime charges describes a deeply disturbed man filled with hatred toward Jews and Muslims, which is detailed in a manifesto he allegedly published online. Court documents said Earnest dialed 911 after fleeing the synagogue in his car and said: "I just shot up a synagogue." He went on to tell the dispatcher he did it "because Jewish people are destroying the white race," according to the affidavit. He was quickly arrested without a struggle. Earnest has pleaded not guilty to state murder charges in the death of 60-year-old Lori Kaye, who was hit twice as she prayed in the synagogue foyer. Wounded were Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading the service, an 8-year-old girl, and her uncle. (Earnest's parents say he is now part of a "history of evil.")

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