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Pittsburgh Shooter Requests Some Charges Dropped

Tree of Life Shooting.jpg

A federal judge denied a request Thursday to drop specific charges against Robert Bowers, the man who is accused of killing 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018. 

Mr. Bowers’ defense motioned to dismiss charges filed against him for violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Church Arson Act, arguing that both acts allegedly “infringe on a general police power reserved to the states by the Constitution.”

In response, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose detailed her opinion in a 20-page document, stating the defendant’s argument ignores the dual-sovereign concept, where federal laws “often criminalize conduct that falls within traditional areas of state law.”

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act states that anyone who “willfully causes bodily injury to any person, or through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person [shall be subject to punishment].”

Judge Ambrose said that the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution — which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude — authorizes this act.

Judge Ambrose also dismissed Mr. Bowers’ request to drop charges against him under the Church Arson Act, which states that anyone who “intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, including by threat of force against religious real property, any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so” shall be punished.

Judge Ambrose on Friday denied additional attempts by Bowers’ lawyers to get the gun charges against him dismissed.

Mr. Bowers’ lawyers had filed a motion to dismiss counts 23-33, 38 and 39, and 52 to 63, all related to the use of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.

The lawyers argued that the crimes as filed under federal statutes are not qualifying crimes of violence, that one of the statutes is too vague, that two of the charges violate double jeopardy and other claims.

The judge rejected all of the arguments and the case will proceed to trial.