SAN DIEGO (AP) – A 22-year-old former nursing student has pleaded guilty to the murder of one person and the attempted murder of 53 others in connection with a 2019 deadly shooting at a southern California synagogue on the last day of Easter. , effectively ending the possibility of facing the death penalty.
John T. Earnest pleaded similar guilty on July 20 to state charges in San Diego Superior Court and then agreed to spend the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for September 30.
In the federal case, the sentence was set for December 2. 28. Defense attorneys and prosecutors also recommend a sentence of life imprisonment, plus 30 years, according to the statement.
Federal prosecutors had said previously that they would not seek the death penalty, and Friday’s plea deal finalized that decision.
Earnest opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on the last day of Easter services in April 2019 in Chabad of Poway, northeast of San Diego. The attack killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and injured three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.
After seriously emptying his initial magazine, several parishioners pounced on him. Earnest fled in his car and shortly after called 911 and confessed that he “had just shot a synagogue.” Earnest was taken into custody by local police who found the rifle and additional ammunition in his car.
In his guilty plea on Friday, he admitted that he also set fire to an Escondido mosque on March 24 with seven people sleeping inside, although no one was injured.
He said he carried out the attacks because he wanted to kill Muslims and Jews.
A federal grand jury in May 2019 indicted 113 counts, of which he pleaded guilty on Friday.
“This nation supports the family of Lori Gilbert Kaye and the survivors of these unspeakable acts of terror,” Acting US Attorney Randy S. Grossman said in a statement. “We strongly reject the hatred, racism and prejudice of the accused, and we hope that the conclusion of this case will bring some comfort to all those affected by his heinous crimes.”