Syn­a­gogue shoot­ing sus­pect pleads not guilty in San Diego

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Pauline Repard

SAN DIEGO — A Ran­cho Pe­nasquitos man ap­peared at a brief San Diego court hear­ing Thurs­day to en­ter a plea of not guilty to charges of murder, three counts of at­tempted murder and hate crime al­le­ga­tions in the Poway syn­a­gogue shoot­ing in April.

John Ti­mothy Earnest, 20, is ac­cused of killing one mem­ber of Chabad of Poway and wound­ing two oth­ers, along with a rabbi. He also is charged with ar­son at an Es­con­dido mosque in March, where sev­eral peo­ple were sleep­ing but got out safely.

Pros­e­cu­tors say ha­tred fu­eled the crimes, as ev­i­denced by an anti-Jewish and Mus­lim di­a­tribe posted on­line by some­one who iden­ti­fied him­self as Earnest.

The hear­ing on Thurs­day came as a pre­trial for­mal­ity. Deputy Dis­trict At­tor­ney David Grapi­lon said the hear­ing gives de­fen­dants in felony cases a chance to hear any new charges or al­le­ga­tions that may have been filed.

The only change from the orig­i­nal com­plaint, Grapi­lon said, was to a firearm-use al­le­ga­tion. It now al­leges that Earnest used a firearm caus­ing great bod­ily in­jury or death to all four shoot­ing vic­tims.

It may be an­other month be­fore the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice de­cides whether to seek the death penalty against Earnest, Grapi­lon said. He said pros­e­cu­tors will re­search the de­fen­dant’s back­ground and con­sult with vic­tims, fam­i­lies and con­gre­gants from the syn­a­gogue be­fore de­cid­ing.

Earnest could face the death penalty in a fed­eral case, filed sep­a­rately from the state case but in­volv­ing the same of­fenses. He is charged in a 113-count fed­eral in­dict­ment al­leg­ing hate crimes, us­ing a firearm and ob­struct­ing the free ex­er­cise of re­li­gious be­lieves by us­ing a weapon caus­ing death and in­jury.

He was ar­rested April 27 af­ter he called 911, told a dis­patcher that he had just shot some peo­ple at a syn­a­gogue, and waited for po­lice to ar­rive. He sur­ren­dered qui­etly. Authoritie­s found an AR-15 ri­fle, am­mu­ni­tion and a tac­ti­cal hel­met in his car.

Killed at the syn­a­gogue min­utes ear­lier was Lori Gil­bert-Kaye, 60, shot as she stood in the lobby to greet con­gre­gants ar­riv­ing for a spe­cial ser­vice on the last day of Passover. Al­mog Peretz, 34, was wounded, as was his 8-year-old niece, Noya Da­han. Rabbi Yis­roel Gold­stein was wounded in both hands and lost a fin­ger.

HOWARD LIPIN/THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

John Earnest, left, talks with his at­tor­ney, Deputy Al­ter­nate Pub­lic De­fender John O’Connell, right, dur­ing his ar­raign­ment Thurs­day be­fore San Diego Su­pe­rior Court Pre­sid­ing Judge Peter Ded­deh.

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