Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter Indicted On 44 Federal Counts

The man responsible for the deaths of eleven people in a Pittsburgh synagogue has been indicted on 44 counts by a Federal Grand Jury.

Robert Bowers, the shooter who killed eleven people and wounded six others at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday, has been indicted on nearly four dozen counts, including Federal hate crimes and charges that could make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted:

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a man who the authorities say killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue while spewing anti-Semitic slurs on 44 counts, including hate crimes. He could face the death penalty.

The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in western Pennsylvania, charges Robert Bowers, 46, with 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious freedom resulting in death, and 11 counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence.

The maximum penalty Mr. Bowers could receive if convicted is death, or life without parole plus 535 additional years of imprisonment.

“Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Wednesday. “The defendant in this case allegedly murdered 11 innocent people during religious services and injured four law enforcement officers. These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation.”

Scott W. Brady, United States attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said in a statement on Wednesday: “Today begins the process of seeking justice for the victims of these hateful acts, and healing for the victims’ families, the Jewish community and our city.”

In a rampage that has been described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States, the suspect — armed with a Colt AR-15 rifle and at least three handguns — stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday and opened fire indiscriminately, the authorities said. Among the injured were several law enforcement officers.

The assailant fired for several minutes and was leaving the synagogue when law enforcement officers met him at the door. According to the police, Mr. Bowers exchanged gunfire with officers before going back inside and barricading himself in a room. He eventually surrendered.

Wednesday’s indictment came as many were gathering together for funerals and shivas in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, home to many in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community as well as several synagogues, kosher restaurants and bakeries.

More from The Washington Post:

The suspect in a grisly shooting that left 11 people dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue was charged Wednesday in a 44-count indictment accusing him of federal hate crimes.

Officials say Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pa., drove to Tree of Life synagogue armed with Glock .357 handguns and a Colt AR-15 rifle. The indictment charges that while inside the synagogue, Bowers made statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews.”

In a statement announcing the indictment, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the alleged crimes “are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.”

The indictment charges Bowers, a truck driver, with killing 11 people, and for each of those victims he faces separate counts of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and of using a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.

He also faces charges of attempting to kill people exercising their religious beliefs and civil rights charges related to injuring several police officers who responded to the attack.

The charges carry a possible death sentence, and the Justice Department has said previously that federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh had initiated the process to seek such a punishment. The case, though, must still be reviewed by Justice Department lawyers specializing in capital cases, and the final decision will ultimately be left to the attorney general.

The attack was the deadliest on Jews in U.S. history — killing worshipers who ranged in age from 54 to 97. Among those slain were two brothers who had attended services each week since boyhood, a doctor who led Torah studies and a research assistant who took turns as a front-door greeter. The indictment listed each victim only by initials.

Little is known about Bowers — aside from an allegedly deep capacity to hate. Neighbors said he seldom had visitors at his apartment in Baldwin, though he exchanged greetings with passersby. Online, though, he posted anti-Semitic and racist rants, comparing Jews to Satan and using slurs to refer to women who had relationships with black men.

Bowers also faces number of state charges filed over the weekend, including 11 counts of criminal homicide. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Tuesday his office sought to have Bowers arraigned on the state charges but was denied by federal authorities. Zappala said that he would prefer that local residents “sit in judgment” of Bowers in a trial but would let the federal case proceed and put the state charges on hold for the time being. The district attorney has signaled he is likely to also pursue a death sentence for Bowers.

While it’s ordinarily true that the Federal Government defers to the state and local authorities when it comes to proceedings such as this, it is not unprecedented for the reverse to happen. In the Boston Marathon bombing, for example, the Federal Government proceeded with its charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before the State of Massachusetts, which has concurrent jurisdiction in the matter and also indicted the Defendant on murder and related charges. Tsarnaev was, of course, convicted by a Federal Jury and sentenced to death while the state charges remain pending and may never actually go to trial depending on the speed with which the appeals in Tsarnaev’s Federal case go. This same thing happened in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Office Building. In that case, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were initially tried and convicted in Federal Court before proceeding in state court. McVeigh was sentenced to death, while Nichols received life in prison without parole and was later convicted in state court and ultimately also sentenced to life in prison without parole on those charges. The same thing happened to Dylann Roof, the shooter in the Charleston Church shooting and Roof was ultimately convicted in Federal Court and sentenced to die by the Federal Jury.

In any case, the case will now proceed forward as any ordinary Federal criminal case would, with the caveat that we’ll have to wait and see if the decision to seek the death penalty is approved as required by Justice Department rules and signed off on by the Attorney General. Under the circumstances, though, I suspect that this will basically be a pro forma decision. Under the circumstances, while I oppose the death penalty this seems like exactly the kind of case that prosecutors would wish to go forward with given the facts of the case. If they do, then it’s likely that Bowers’ defense team will follow a strategy not dissimilar from what we saw in the Boston Marathon case where the focus was not so much on seeking an unlikely acquittal but on averting a death sentence in favor of a sentence of life in prison. Whether that succeeds or not will depend on what, if any, mitigation they are able to present to the jury during the guilt phase of the trial. Whatever the outcome, though, it’s safe to say that Robert Bowers will never see freedom again, although his damage has already been done.

Here’s the indictment:

United States v. Robert Bow… by on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Religion, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While it’s ordinarily true that the Federal Government defers to the state and local authorities when it comes to proceedings such as this, it is not unprecedented for the reverse to happen. In the Boston Marathon bombing, for example, the Federal Government proceeded with its charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before the State of Massachusetts, which has concurrent jurisdiction in the matter and also indicted the Defendant on murder and related charges. Tsarnaev was, of course, convicted by a Federal Jury and sentenced to death while the state charges remain pending and may never actually go to trial depending on the speed with which the appeals in Tsarnaev’s Federal case go. This same thing happened in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Office Building. In that case, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were initially tried and convicted in Federal Court before proceeding in state court. McVeigh was sentenced to death, while Nichols received life in prison without parole and was later convicted in state court and ultimately also sentenced to life in prison without parole on those charges. The same thing happened to Dylann Roof, the shooter in the Charleston Church shooting and Roof was ultimately convicted in Federal Court and sentenced to die by the Federal Jury.

    shakes head at the complete and utter waste of time and money in redundant prosecutions

    Do prosecutors have their brains sucked out when studying criminal law? How many times can one person be killed? Can the state kill a man again after the Feds have done it? How many life sentences without parole can a man serve? Do not prosecutors have enough to do with sending *people back to prison for smoking a doobie with a prostitute for his 3rd strike*? Never mind the endless appeals in a death sentence case.

    We spend all this money keeping lawyers off the street instead of investing in our children with decent schools, good teachers, and properly supplied classrooms.

    ** true story as told to me by a federal PD in the S IL district.

  2. John430 says:

    I wonder which of the leftist, anti-Israel BDS groups the shooter belonged to.

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  3. John430 says:

    I wonder which left-wing, anti-Israel BDS movement the shooter belonged to?

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  4. Kathy says:

    @John430:

    I should know better than to feed the trolls, but I really need to know:

    Was it worth crawling from under your rock to say something this obviously stupid?

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  5. Mister Bluster says:

    Hey 430!
    You are a proud Trump supporter just like the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi’s.
    They love you for it!

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  6. Kylopod says:

    @John430: The shooter was known to be a right-winger who was motivated by a conspiracy theory pushed by Trump himself that the caravan of migrants is being funded by George Soros. There is an extensive record of the shooter’s beliefs on social media. To the best of my knowledge, there is no mention of it having anything to do with BDS.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    There goes my hope that he would get 14 Federal and 88 State indictments.

    Maybe the Feds can come up with another 44 charges to get him up to 88.

  8. John430 says:

    @Kathy: No me gritas, pendeja.

  9. John430 says:

    @Mister Bluster: Quit playing with yourself, old man. I have proudly served my country, shoulder to shoulder with Americans of all colors. You likely hide out whenever duty calls. We could indeed “Make America Great Again” if you stay under your rock.

  10. John430 says:

    @Kylopod: Read it again, dummy. You have the wrong idiot in mind. I believe you are referring to the Florida nutjob.

  11. Kathy says:

    @John430:

    Literal translation: You don’t yell at me, pubic hair.

  12. Pylon says:

    Nope, Kylopod is correct. The only thing separating this guy from being totally a Trumpkin is that he is that Trump isn’t anti-Semitic enough for him (probably a combination of the Kushner connection and the Netanyahu support). But his ranting s on line were all about the caravan and Soros.

    But you knew that, right, troll?

  13. Kylopod says:

    @John430: Here is a description of the guy from Wikipedia (with extensive citations from news articles over the past week):

    Gab has been described as “extremist friendly” or a “safe haven” for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right. Bowers’ Gab social media profile was registered in January 2018 under the handle “onedingo”, and the account’s description was: “Jews are the children of Satan (John 8:44). The Lord Jesus Christ [has] come in the flesh.” The cover picture was a photo with the number 1488, which is used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists to evoke David Lane’s “Fourteen Words” and the Nazi slogan Heil Hitler. He had published posts supporting the white genocide theory…. He also re-posted content by other anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi, and Holocaust-denying users, and he criticized President Donald Trump for being a “globalist, not a nationalist” and for supposedly being controlled and surrounded by Jews. In another post, he wrote, “There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.” Other posts attacked African Americans with racial slurs and images related to lynching, and attacked women who have relationships with black men. He also used his online accounts to post conspiracy theories regarding investor and philanthropist George Soros…. He claimed that Jews were aiding members of Central American caravans moving towards the United States border and to have referred to members of those caravans as “invaders”. Shortly before the attack, in an apparent reference to immigrants to the United States, he posted on Gab that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “the mention of ‘optics’ references a disagreement that has raged within the white nationalist movement since the Unite the Right rally in 2017 about how best to get their message across to the general public”.

    Yes, he did attack Trump as too Jewish-controlled, but that no more makes him a leftist than Cornel West is a rightist when he attacks Obama as a racial sellout (and just to be clear, I am not comparing West to the shooter–not by a light year). He is clearly a self-identifying member of the extreme right.

    Please show me where you got the idea that he was either a left-winger or a supporter of the BDS movement.

  14. Teve says:

    Kylopod says:
    Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 17:54
    @John430: Here is a description of the guy from Wikipedia (with extensive citations from news articles over the past week):

    Gab has been described as “extremist friendly” or a “safe haven” for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right. Bowers’ Gab social media profile was registered in January 2018 under the handle “onedingo”, and the account’s description was: “Jews are the children of Satan (John 8:44). The Lord Jesus Christ [has] come in the flesh.”

    John420 isn’t supporting John844? Seems unchristian 😛 😀 😮

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    I refuse to answer to Trump’s call to duty.
    “Grab them by the pussy.”

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  16. al Ameda says:

    @John430:

    I wonder which left-wing, anti-Israel BDS movement the shooter belonged to?

    Ask Jacob Wohl.

  17. John430 says:

    @Teve: Yet another moron is heard from. As to my screen name, John is my first name and April 30th is my birthday. FWIW, I gave up being 420 herb friendly years ago.

    @Kathy: LOL! Pendejo is “stupid” as in the male gender and the feminine gender is pendeja. You can’t always trust Google Translate , but down here in south Texas we know other apt names for foolish men AND women like you.

  18. Kathy says:

    @John430:

    Según la Real Academia Española, la definición de “pendejo” es “m. Pelo que nace en el pubis y en las ingles.” O sea que tienes mas confusión sobre género que piedras en la cabeza. Y se tiene que ser muy pendejo, idiota, para pensar que alguien cuya lengua nativa es Español, requiere de diccionarios pinches en internet.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @John430: Hey idiot, never argue with a woman who lives in Mexico about the idiosyncrasies of Mexican Spanish. I learned within 2 weeks of meeting my Majorcan born wife to not argue Spanish with her, and I’m pretty sure I know more Spanish than you’ve ever heard.
    @Kathy: Well done.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    ג ‘ון הוא אידיוט מזוין בכל שפה

    🙂

  21. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Thanks!

  22. Kylopod says:

    I don’t mean to interrupt from everyone’s enjoyment of John’s complete and total asswhupping, but I just wanted to add that I did not know until I found the earlier quote that the shooter had quoted from the Bible to justify his hatred of Jews. Not exactly surprising, but it only further confirms how totally asinine Kellyanne Conway’s remark from the other day was when she described the attack as part of an epidemic of “anti-religiosity” spurned by TV comedians making fun of people of faith.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/media/413621-conway-links-pittsburgh-shooting-to-anti-religious-trend

    In other words, in Conway’s reckoning, Bill Maher caused this attack.

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  23. John430 says:

    @Kathy: Real Academia Española is likely true, correct Spanish but down here, Tex-Mex is the rule and “pendeja” is correct for someone as spacey as you.

  24. Jake says:

    https://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/pittsburgh-and-the-misplaced-anger-of-liberal-jews/

    “A litany of Trump’s pro-Jewish actions creates cognitive dissonance for them. They can’t even look at it, even though, besides moving the embassy to Jerusalem — something promised by several presidents before him who reneged — his administration is filled with more Jews at high levels than any before. To name just a few: Steve Mnuchin (secretary of the Treasury) and Larry Kudlow (director of the NEC) — both of whom had their hands in the current boom — senior advisor Stephen Miller, special assistant to the president Paul Teller, Jason Greenblatt (lead negotiator for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement), Ambassador David Friedman, son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka and several Jewish grandchildren who, at least for now, are not involved in government. There are many more, obviously.”

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  25. An Interested Party says:

    @Jake: Uh huh

    But this is the same week a mass murderer carried out an explicitly anti-Semitic attack based on the idea Jewish people are assisting The Caravan. So the president suggests that a top boogeyman on the right—George Soros, a wealthy Jewish financier who last week was himself targeted with a pipe bomb as part of a rolling attempted assassination campaign by a Trump supporter—could be involved? This follows on his continued rhetoric about “globalists,” an anti-Semitic code word popular with white nationalists. Yes, the reporter here deserves some of the blame for prompting the president with this vile nonsense. But he’s the goddamned president, and he is doubling down on the exact conspiracy theories that led people on the fringes of society to engage in domestic terrorism last week.

    But there was only one way for the president to truly demonstrate his total non-concern about right-wing political violence in this country. Just to cross his T’s, his administration is ending a program designed to combat white supremacist domestic terrorism—you know, like the Pittsburgh shooting. Or, it increasingly seems, the Kentucky shooting.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @Jake:

    his administration is filled with more Jews at high levels than any before.

    I don’t think that’s true. I just checked Jewish Virtual Library, which counts just 8 Jews in his administration. Now, in fairness, the list appears to be incomplete, as it doesn’t include Ivanka or Larry Kudlow. Still, it’s far short of the 35 some Jews who served under Obama.

  27. Kylopod says:

    Also, regardless of which administration had more Jews, it’s unquestionably true that the Obama Administration had plenty of Jews. So by Simon’s reasoning, that would imply that Obama was a very pro-Jewish president whom it would be absurd to accuse of promoting or enabling anti-Semitism.

    But wait…

    “All Jews who voted for Obama should repent on Yom Kippur.” — Roger Simon, 2014

    https://twitter.com/rogerlsimon/status/518073836726530050

    I guess consistency isn’t his strong suit.

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  28. Eric Florack says:

    @John430: you know that’s a point that came up yesterday.

    The background information on this shooter coming from the mainstream media is extraordinary thin to say the least. I believe it was Glen Reynolds yesterday who suggested that if they’re not telling us anything about the man, it’s because what they found doesn’t match the narrative. That the man absolutely despises Trump and his policies and politics doesn’t matter, they’re still trying to pin this shooting on Trump. That’s the narrative, and to hell with everything else.
    It’s clear that the shooting at the tree of life is to the left nothing more than another weapon to be used against their enemy. Regardless of the facts

  29. Eric Florack says:

    And should we mention that the rabbi that suggested Trump was welcome at the tree of life is now getting death threats?