The Jerusalem Post
Poway shooter pleads guilty to murder
SAN DIEGO (The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS) – A former nursing student pleaded guilty in San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday to shooting congregants at a Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover in 2019, killing one person and wounding three others, including a child.
John T. Earnest, now 22, admitted charges of murder and attempted murder in a plea deal that spares him a potential death sentence. He pleaded guilty to all the charges he faced, including an arson charge for setting fire to an Escondido mosque a month before the attack on the synagogue, and he admitted that both acts were hate crimes.
As a result of his plea, Earnest will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 121 years to life and another 16 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced September 30 in San Diego Superior Court.
In addition to the case the District Attorney’s Office brought in state court, Earnest was indicted in federal court, where he is facing hate crimes charges and more.
Earnest has signed a conditional
plea agreement in the federal prosecution that has been submitted to the office of US Attorney General Merrick Garland, attorneys said in early June. The terms of that plea offer have not been disclosed, nor have attorneys said publicly if those terms have been accepted.
The federal case had stalled somewhat over the past year as the court awaited a decision on whether the Department of Justice would be seeking the death penalty. A decision still has not
been disclosed publicly but has likely been mitigated somewhat by the offer to plead guilty. Federal prosecutors have until August 30 to let the judge know if they plan to seek execution.
The proposed plea deal in the federal case prompted prosecutors in the state case to accept a guilty plea in order to avoid double jeopardy, Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh said after Tuesday’s hearing.
“It was important that he be held accountable in state court for his crimes, and that conditional plea could have interfered with our ability to prosecute him once that plea is entered in federal court,” Trinh said.
Earnest was a 19-year-old Rancho Peñasquitos resident and Cal State San Marcos nursing student when authorities say he walked into the synagogue in sunglasses, a military-style tactical vest and carrying an AR-15style lightweight semi-automatic rifle.
There were 54 people inside the synagogue when he started shooting on April 27, 2019. Chabad of Poway congregant Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed. Founding Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, eight-year-old Noya Dahan, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, 34 were injured.
Earnest fled when an off-duty Border Patrol agent fired at him.
As Earnest drove off, he called 911 and confessed to the shooting. He then waited for police to arrest him.
Shortly before the attack, Earnest posted an “open letter,” an online screed of racist and antisemitic statements and saying the “European race” must be protected. He also praised the March 2019 mass shootings at New Zealand synagogues, attacks that left 51 people dead.