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

<i>Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Mourners and well-wishers leave flowers and signs at a makeshift memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway Synagogue on April 28
AFP via Getty Images
Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images
Mourners and well-wishers leave flowers and signs at a makeshift memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway Synagogue on April 28

By Josh Campbell, CNN

A Southern Californian man who previously pleaded guilty to state murder and attempted murder charges following a 2019 attack on a synagogue in San Diego pleaded guilty Friday to federal hate crime charges, according to the Justice Department.

“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.”

The Justice Department said Earnest wrote that his attack was inspired by the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the 2019 attack on mosques in New Zealand.

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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CNN’s Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.

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