ShareThis Page
Allegheny

Attorney for Robert Bowers hopes to resolve Tree of Life case without trial

Megan Guza
| Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, 9:51 a.m.
Jon Pushinsky, a congregant of Dor Hadash, one of three congregations housed in the Tree of Life Synagogue where Robert Bowers allegedly opened fire during Shabbat services last year, speaks to the media following Bowers’ arraignment on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. He and fellow congregant Donna Coufal said they will attend as many court proceedings as they can.
Megan Guza
Jon Pushinsky, a congregant of Dor Hadash, one of three congregations housed in the Tree of Life Synagogue where Robert Bowers allegedly opened fire during Shabbat services last year, speaks to the media following Bowers’ arraignment on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. He and fellow congregant Donna Coufal said they will attend as many court proceedings as they can.
Jon Pushinsky and Donna Coufal, both congregants of Dor Hadash, embrace as they leave the federal courthouse on Grant Street following the arraignment of accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.
Megan Guza
Jon Pushinsky and Donna Coufal, both congregants of Dor Hadash, embrace as they leave the federal courthouse on Grant Street following the arraignment of accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.
Robert D. Bowers
Submitted
Robert D. Bowers

Updated 11 hours ago

Accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers pleaded not guilty Monday to new hate-crime charges filed against him, and his renowned attorney, Judy Clarke, expressed interest in a plea deal rather than a trial.

Bowers — with his feet shackled and his wrists chained to his waist — wore a red jail-issued jumpsuit and was clean-shaven.

He appeared alert and answered questions from prosecutors and the judge confidently, responding “yes” when asked if he’d read the charges against him.

Clarke, a San Diego-based attorney with a reputation for keeping notorious killers from the death penalty , joined Bowers’ defense counsel last month. Among her former clients are the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of helping mastermind the 9/11 attacks.

Upon entering Bowers’ plea of not guilty to the 63 federal charges against him, Clarke noted the defense is “hopeful for a resolution without (going to) trial.”

In the meantime, he has pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial.

Bowers is accused of opening fire inside the Tree of Life synagogue just before Shabbat services started Oct. 27, killing 11 worshippers among three congregations. Two other congregants were hurt, and five police officers were wounded in a shootout with Bowers on the third floor of the Squirrel Hill synagogue.

Twenty-two of the charges against Bowers are punishable by death. Prosecutors said they estimate a trial would last about three weeks — longer if the case is deemed a capital case, something that remains under review by the Department of Justice.

The hearing lasted about 10 minutes. Clarke declined to speak as she left the federal courthouse on Grant Street.

Two congregants of Dor Hadash, one of the congregations within the synagogue, attended the hearing.

“I think we have to be present and strong and not afraid and make ourselves be known as human beings, all of us, in this process,” said Donna Coufal, a Dor Hadash congregant and president-elect. “That’s all I know.”

Jon Pushinsky, another congregant, said they have been to previous hearings, and they want to show that Dor Hadash “will not be defined by this incident.”

“We’re going to be here as often as we can when there’s a court proceeding to show that we are there to watch the system do what it needs to do,” he said.

Pushinsky said he was struck the first time he saw Bowers in person.

“I expected to look into the face of evil,” he said. “And what I saw was a nonentity.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me