Accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers arraigned on new charges

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By Steve Pope | February 11, 2019

Accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers pleaded not guilty Monday at his arraignment to a superseding indictment that added new hate crime charges filed against him.

Last month a federal grand jury returned a 63-count superseding indictment that adds 19 new charges, which include 11 counts of hate crimes leading to death, two counts of hate crimes leading to injury and six additional firearms charges.

According to federal law, 22 of the charges could lead to the death penalty if prosecutors decide to seek it.

Bowers made the brief court appearance under tight security wearing a red jumpsuit with his feet shackled together and his wrists shackled to his waist.

Bowers answered questions from prosecutors and the judge responding “yes” when asked if he has read the charges against him.

San Diego attorney Judy Clarke, who joined Bowers’s defense team last month, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell that Bowers’s defense team is hoping to resolve the case without going to trial.

However, he has pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial at today’s hearing.

Prosecutors say the trial will take three weeks, which does not include the penalty phase if Bowers is convicted.

The new indictment alleges that Bowers willfully caused bodily injury to 11 deceased and two surviving victims because of their actual and perceived religion.

Bowers is facing 13 new charges alleging he violated the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and corresponding counts for firing a gun during those crimes.

On Oct. 10 Bowers allegedly posted statements on the website gab.com that were critical of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) saying, “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? We appreciate the list of friends you have provided,” the filing alleged.

No trial date has been set and Bowers remains in the Butler County Jail.

Steve Pope can be contacted at steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com

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