Accused San Diego synagogue shooter John T. Earnest in federal court –

Posted By on May 15, 2019

Oscar Stewart of Rancho Bernardo, was the one who screamed at the suspect, 19-year-old John Earnest, and ran him out. Nick Oza (ozan), Arizona Republic

The man accused of killing one person and wounding three others at a synagogue outside San Diego last month faces a rare pairing of state and federal prosecutors, both with the option of pursuing the death penalty against him.

John T. Earnest, 19, pleaded not guilty to hate crimes in his first federal court appearance Tuesday in San Diego.

Earnest spoke only twice during a brief hearing, once to acknowledge his name and once to say he agreed with his court-appointed lawyer's request not to seek bond.

Prosecutor Peter Ko said the federal government has not decided whether to seek the death penalty, andreaffirmed plans to try the case separately but simultaneously with state charges of murder and attempted murder.

Shackled at the wrists and ankles, Earnest had adifferent look than athis April 30 arraignment, sporting a new buzz cut and shedding the glasses he wore then.He looked blankly at Magistrate Michael Berg as the judge explained the proceedings.

Earnest has been charged with 109 federal counts, most of them in connection with the April 27 shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue that resulted in the death of congregant Lori Gilbert Kaye, hand injuries to Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein and wounds to two other worshipers.

The federal hate crime charges make Earnest eligible for the death penalty if convicted, and the state charges stemming from the synagogue onslaught could carry the same punishment. He has also been accused of arson in relation to a fire at a mosque in nearby Escondido the previous month.

Last month, Earnest pleaded not guilty to the state charges in both cases.

John T. Earnest was arraigned in San Diego County Superior Court on April 30. Earnest is facing charges of murder and attempted murder at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where one woman was killed and three injured. On Thursday, he was charged with more than 100 federal counts of hate crimes.(Photo: Pool, Getty Images)

After the shooting spree, which prosecutors say ended when Earnest failed to reload his semi-automatic rifle and was rushed by members of the congregation, he called 911 and told a dispatcher, I just shot up a synagogue, adding that his reason was, because Jewish people are destroying the white race. He was arrested shortly afterward.

Prosecutors described Earnest as consumed with hatred toward Jews and Muslims, and they say he was inspired to act by last years shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the March assault on two New Zealand mosques that left 50 people dead. Earnest allegedly posted a manifesto detailing his beliefs.

More: The last day of Passover: Two families, one shared tragedy at Poway synagogue

Related: Feds charge suspect in Poway synagogue killing with 109 counts of hate crimes

In announcing the federal charges against Earnest on Thursday, U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer Jr. said he expected the state and federal cases to proceed simultaneously, which is uncommon.

So is Earnests profile in light of the horrific acts hes accused of. A nursing student at Cal State San Marcos, Earnest is a gifted pianist and was an accomplished athlete and scholar at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, where his father, John A. Earnest, is a popular physics teacher.

The younger Earnest apparently got radicalized sometime in the last two years through online readings. Two days after the attack, his family issued a powerfully worded statement denouncing his actions.

Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faithand a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do, the statement said. How ourson was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us, though we areconfident that law enforcement will uncover many details of the path that he took to this evil and despicable act.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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