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Closing arguments in Tree of Life synagogue shooting | Court News

A case is pending centered on the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre that left 11 congregants dead.

Prosecutors have made closing arguments against a man accused of turning a U.S. synagogue into a “hunting ground” in a 2018 shooting that killed 11 people.

A 50-year-old former truck driver named Robert Powers faces 63 criminal charges for the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in what is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. If convicted, Powers could face the death penalty.

But while Bowers’ defense attorneys used Thursday’s closing arguments to question his motives, federal prosecutors highlighted the truck driver’s history of anti-Semitic remarks as they were charged with hate crimes and obstruction of religious activities convict it.

“He was full of hatred for Jews,” prosecutor Mary Hahn said, noting that Powers had long engaged in and promoted anti-Semitic and white supremacist content online. “That’s what drove him to act.”

Defense attorneys have raised few disputes that Bowers carried out the attack. In her closing arguments, public defender Elisa Long acknowledged Bowers’ actions “without justification” and acknowledged the pain of the survivors.

However, she argued that Powers’ motives were not necessarily anti-Semitic hatred or disrupting religious services.

Instead, she said, Powers was blinded by his “absurd and irrational” beliefs about immigration, which he linked to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a Jewish refugee nonprofit. The group’s slogan is “Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee.”

Long described Bowles as clinging to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by nonwhite immigrants. She said Powers put Jewish organizations at the center of the conspiracy theory.

Racist myths that portray Jews as masterminds of evil plots have long been a staple of anti-Semitic rhetoric, and prosecutors dismissed the defense’s argument, arguing there was no distinction.

Attorney Eric Olshan reminded jurors that the attack took place at the “center of the Jewish universe”: Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. He described Bowers as “hunting, looking for Jews to kill.”

Prosecutor Mary Hahn told jurors that Bowers, who was arrested after a shootout injured five police officers, allegedly told law enforcement that “all these Jews need to die.”

Many of those killed were elderly people, remembered by family and friends as thoughtful and kind members of the community.

Earlier this week, jurors heard harrowing accounts from survivors of the attack, including a woman whose mother had remained motionless as her mother died by her side during the massacre.

“I just lay on the floor, motionless, in case he was there or came back. I didn’t want him to know I was alive,” said Andrea Wedner, whose 97-year-old mother Rose Mallinger was killed in the attack.

“I kissed my fingers,” Weidner said of the moment her mother died. “I ran my fingers over her skin.”

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