Poway synagogue shooting suspect pleads not guilty in federal court

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SAN DIEGO — The man accused of killing a woman and injuring three others after opening fire inside a Poway synagogue pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday.

This was 19-year-old John T. Earnest’s second arraignment after four additional counts of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence were added during his first arraignment on May 21.

Earnest entered the courtroom wearing five-point shackles, which his defense team requested U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Berg allow to be removed. Berg denied their request, citing an incident that was reported earlier by U.S. Marshals.

Earnest is accused of carrying out the shooting that killed 60-year-old Lori Kaye and injured three others — 34-year-old Almog Peretz, 8-year-old Noya Dahan and the congregation’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein — at Chabad of Poway on April 27, the last day of Passover.

According to the indictment, Earnest faces 113 federal counts, including 54 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs using a dangerous weapon, resulting in death, bodily injury and attempts to kill. Earnest also faces 54 counts of hate crimes for the shooting and one count of damage to a religious property for a fire he allegedly set on March 24 at the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido.

Earnest, who lived with his parents in Rancho Peñasquitos and was studying nursing at Cal State San Marcos, confessed to both the shooting and the arson fire in an online manifesto posted prior to the synagogue shooting.

In federal court Tuesday, Earnest again entered not guilty pleas to all 113 charges. If found guilty, Earnest’s case would be eligible for the death penalty.

Earnest will appear in San Diego District Court Thursday for a readiness conference and is expected to return to federal court at the end of June.

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