Plea Deal Rejected For Pittsburgh Synagogue Gunman

FILE - This Dec. 2, 2018, file photo shows a menorah at a memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue, where Robert Bowers killed worshippers in an Oct. 27 shooting, as people prepare for a celebration service at sundown on the first night of Hanukkah in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Federal prosecutors are recommending a 10-month prison sentence and supervised release for Jeffrey Clark Jr., whose relatives reported concerns about his behavior and far-right extremist rhetoric after last year's Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 13, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — Federal prosecutors rejected an offer by the accused Pittsburgh synagogue gunman to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of release.

Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty against Robert Bowers, who is accused of killing 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018.

Court filings showing the offer’s rejection were released Tuesday.

Lawyers for Bowers told the court that the case would already be over if the government had accepted the plea. A proposed schedule for trial would have jury selection begin in September.

Some members of the congregations that met at Tree of Life urged the government to avoid the pain of a protracted trial, Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA reported.

“That is way too long a time for closure, which I think is what is important for a congregation and for the families,” said New Light Congregation co-president Stephen Cohen, who wrote a letter in August urging the U.S. attorney general to accept the plea deal.

Judah Samet, who survived the shooting, told KDKA that putting Bowers to death would let him off the hook.

“I don’t want to kill because, to me, it would be a gift to him,” Samet said. “He won’t suffer.”

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