White supremacist pleads guilty in synagogue plot

Richard Holzer faces up to 40 years in prison. Photo: El Paso County Sheriff's Office via Reuters
Richard Holzer faces up to 40 years in prison. Photo: El Paso County Sheriff's Office via Reuters
A self-described white supremacist has pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and explosive charges for a botched plot to blow up a historic Colorado synagogue last year, prosecutors say.

Richard Holzer, who was arrested in November last year following an undercover FBI sting, admitted to planning to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, the US Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Thursday.

The 28-year-old, who lived in Pueblo, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to obstruct religious services by force, and to one count of trying to destroy a building used in interstate commerce, according to a plea agreement filed in US District Court in Denver.

The temple, built in 1900, is the second oldest synagogue in Colorado and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The actions Holzer admitted in the plea agreement meet the federal definition of domestic terrorism as they involved criminal acts dangerous to human life that were intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population,” US Attorney Jason Dunn said in a statement.

The Colorado Office of the Federal Public Defender, which represents Holzer, does not comment publicly on its cases.

Authorities uncovered the plot after FBI agents came across social media postings by Holzer, in which he promoted white supremacy and his hatred for Jewish people, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Undercover FBI agents, posing as like-minded racists, met with Holzer, who told them of his plan to bomb the synagogue in order to send a message to Jewish people that they were not welcome in Pueblo, a city of 112,000, about 185km south of Denver.

Holzer enlisted the agents to help acquire explosives and was arrested after the agents provided him with inert pipe bombs and sticks of dynamite.

He faces up to 40 years in prison and a $US250,000 ($NZ378,800) fine when he is sentenced in January next year, prosecutors said.

 

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