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Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty

Synagogue gunman pleads not guilty

Pittsburgh -- A truck driver accused of killing 11 people during an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue has pleaded not guilty. Robert Bowers, 46, was in federal court Monday and pleaded not guilty to a new indictment that added 19 additional counts.

The hearing lasted less than 15 minutes, reports CBS Pittsburgh. Bowers arrived in a red jumpsuit with his ankles and wrists shackled.  

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.

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. The charges in the new, 63-count superseding indictment include:

• Eleven counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death;
• Eleven counts of hate crimes resulting in death;
• Two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury;
• Two counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill;
• Eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to public safety officers;
• Four counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to public safety officers;
• Twenty-five counts of discharge of a firearm during these crimes of violence.  

Bowers, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, is accused of targeting worshippers from three Jewish congregations when he attacked Saturday, Oct. 27, while Sabbath services were being held. Authorities say Bowers raged against Jews during and after the attack. 

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Robert Bowers PA DOT

Eleven were killed and 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 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.

Two members from the Dor Hadash congregation, which is part of the Tree of Life Synagogue, attended the hearing, CBS Pittsburgh reports. 

"We have to be present, and strong, and not afraid, and make ourselves be known as human beings, all of us in this process, that's all I know," said Donna Coufal, one of the Dor Hadash congregants.