Synagogue suspect pleads not guilty as funerals continue


Associated Press

PITTSBURGH

The anti-Semitic truck driver accused of gunning down 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that could put him on death row, as funerals for the victims of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history continued for a third day.

Robert Bowers, 46, was arraigned one day after a grand jury issued a 44-count indictment charging him with murder, hate crimes, obstructing the practice of religion and other crimes. It was his second brief appearance in a federal courtroom since the weekend massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

“Yes!” Bowers said in a loud voice when asked if he understood the charges.

Authorities say Bowers raged against Jews during and after the massacre. He remains jailed without bail. Bowers, who was shot and wounded during a gun battle that injured four police officers, walked into court under his own power.

One of his federal public defenders, Michael Novara, said Bowers pleaded not guilty, “as is typical at this stage of the proceedings.”

Bowers had been set for a preliminary hearing on the evidence, but federal prosecutors instead took the case to a grand jury.

The panel issued the indictment as funerals continued for the victims, including a husband and wife married at Tree of Life 62 years ago.

Marc Simon, the son of Bernice and Sylvan Simon, recalled his parents as a “beacon of light” whose example can help “eliminate the hate that led to their untimely deaths.”