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Suspected Synagogue Bomber Ron Hirsch Pleads Not Guilty  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

May 24, 2011 – Ron Hirsch, suspected of setting off an explosion that hurtled 250 pounds of concrete through the roof of a house next door to a Santa Monica synagogue, pled not guilty Monday to four federal charges that together carry a maximum sentence of 70 years.

At his arraignment in Los Angeles federal court, Hirsch initially told U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh that he didn't understand his rights, according to news reports. After Walsh's explanation, Hirsch said that he did. He told the judge that the attorney he had expected didn't show up.

Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real set a June 28 trial date in the case. Hirsch has been held without bail since his arrest on April 22.

Hirsch faces four federal explosive charges, four felony charges brought by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and one federal charge of flight to avoid prosecution.

According to documents filed with the court, a mailing label and a receipt link Hirsch to the purchase and possession of three 11-pound bags of “demolition agent,” empty dry ice bags, plumbing tape, pieces of rebar, bags of cement and a pipe wrench.

While local authorities initially thought the April 7 blast was an accident, they changed their minds after further investigation.

The explosion next to the Chabad House, a synagogue near 17th Street and Broadway, propelled the concrete and metal through the roof of a house next door, above the bedroom where a 12-year-old girl was sleeping.

Two of the charges brought by the County District Attorney against Hirsch are “explosion with intent to murder” and “use of a destructive device and explosive to injure or destroy.”

The federal charges to which Hirsch pled not guilty Monday are use of an explosive to damage property, use of an explosive to commit a federal felony, use of a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

The charge of flight to avoid prosecution stems from Hirsch's cross-country bus trip after the explosion. He was arrested in Cleveland, Ohio on April 12 after a rabbi there identified him.

After the arrest, authorities said no motive was known for the attack.

Hirsch was the subject of a joint investigation by the Santa Monica Police and Fire Departments, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.


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