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Feds say man driven by hatred of Jews pleaded guilty to all charges after deadly 2019 assault on California synagogue

17September 2021

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“The defendant entered a synagogue with the intent to kill all those inside because of his hatred for Jewish people, and days earlier used fire in an attempt to destroy another sacred house of worship because of his hatred for Muslims,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.

John T. Earnest of Rancho Penasquitos pleaded guilty to a 113-count hate crimes indictment, the statement said. Prosecutors said the plea agreement includes a recommended sentence of life in prison plus 30 years.

In addition to the synagogue attack on April 27, 2019, Earnest admitted he tried to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California, on March 24, 2019, the Justice Department said.

Prosecutors said they found a manifesto allegedly written by Earnest, in which he penned anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, including “I can only kill so many Jews” and “I only wish I killed more.”

Armed with a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle, Earnest, who was 19 at the time, killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was at the synagogue to honor her late mother, and injured three others, including the rabbi and an 8-year-old girl.

They were among more than four dozen people inside the synagogue at the time.

In July, Earnest reached a plea agreement on the state charges, accepting life in prison without parole on the murder and attempted murder charges. The agreement spared him from the death penalty.

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