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Suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in wheelchair at first court hearing

November 20, 2018

The man accused of killing 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue was wheeled into a Downtown federal courtroom Monday for his first court appearance.

Robert Bowers sat handcuffed in a wheelchair, released from Allegheny General Hospital only hours earlier.

The 46-year-old Baldwin man said little during the brief hearing. He told U.S. Magistrate Robert Mitchell that he’d read the charges against him and that he had requested a public defender.

Mitchell set a preliminary hearing for 10 a.m. Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said the law dictates that the case must be presented to a federal grand jury within 30 days of Monday.

“Our investigation of these hate crimes continues,” Brady said after the hearing. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims’ families and with the community. Rest assured, we have a team of prosecutors working hard to ensure that justice is done.”

Bowers, dressed in a blue, long-sleeve shirt and gray pants Monday, faces 29 federal charges in connection with Saturday’s massacre at Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill.

Twenty-two carry the death penalty.

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 suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the gunfight with police at the synagogue and underwent surgery at AGH. He was released from the hospital about 9:45 a.m. Monday.

Attorneys Michael Novara and Elisa Long accompanied Bowers into the eighth-floor courtroom just after 1:30 p.m. U.S. Marshals took off his handcuffs briefly so he could sign paperwork.

Federal prosecutors Troy Rivetti and Soo C. Song asked for Bowers to be held without bond and the judge agreed, remanding him to the custody of the U.S. Marshals.

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