Baldwin man accused in synagogue massacre released from hospital, due in court

November 20, 2018

The Baldwin man accused of opening fire on a Squirrel Hill synagogue has been released from the hospital and is set to make his first court appearance Monday afternoon.

Robert Bowers, 46, was released from Allegheny General Hospital about 9:45 a.m. Monday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

She said the hospital would release no further information on the matter.

Bowers had been under guarded watch at the hospital since Saturday when authorities allege he opened fire at Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood. Eleven people were killed and six others, including four police officers, were wounded.

Bowers’ 1:30 p.m. court hearing will take place before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell at the federal courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.

During the initial appearance, or arraignment, Mitchell will read the accusations against Bowers, according to former federal prosecutor Bruce Antkowiak. It will be a short proceeding, he said.

Bowers faces 29 federal charges, 22 of which are punishable by death. U.S. Attorney Scott Brady has said he plans to seek the death penalty. Authorities called the shooting a hate crime and detailed violent statements made by Bowers against Jews, according to court filings.

The judge can determine bail at the initial appearance.

“They’re going to deny him bail because it’s a capital case,” Antkowiak said.

The judge may schedule a date for a preliminary examination on the current complaint, but Antkowiak expects that Brady will immediately seek an indictment from an already-seated grand jury. Once that indictment is filed, Bowers will have another arraignment on the new accusations.

“If that indictment doesn’t happen by Wednesday, I’d be stunned,” Antkowiak said.

Another formality is the plea Bowers will be asked to enter during the hearing. Typically, defendants plead not guilty or a judge enters a not guilty plea on their behalf.

“A defendant cannot plead guilty” before a magistrate judge, Antkowiak said.

Security is expected to be heavy.

It was at Allegheny General Hospital since Saturday with extra security at hospital entrances, said spokeswoman Stephanie Waite.

The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office separately filed 36 charges against Bowers, including 11 counts of homicide. He has not been arraigned on those accusations.

Bowers underwent surgery for multiple gunshot wounds and was in fair condition, officials said. He was injured when a Pittsburgh Police SWAT team closed in on him inside the synagogue. He had an assault-style rifle and three handguns, officials said.

Those inside the synagogue just before 10 a.m. had gathered for worship services.

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