A California man gets a life sentence for murder in a synagogue

The 22-year-old White guard was denied the opportunity to speak in court before the judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for breaking into a South California synagogue on the last day of Easter in 2019 with a shotgun. , killing one worshiper and injuring three others.

The agreement with prosecutors left John T. Earnest’s death sentence left little doubt about the outcome, but the hearing gave 16 families and families a chance to talk to the killer and provided a final point to another article showing how hate speech on the air could lead to violence. Many gave disturbing accounts of how their lives were improved and how they were determined to endure despite such losses.

Earnest’s lawyer, John O’Connell, said his client wanted to speak but San Diego Superior Court judge Peter Deddeh refused, saying he did not want to form a “political party” for the White supremacist views. Earnest did not comment publicly or approve of earlier statements.

“I’m not going to let him use this as a platform to add to his reputation,” the judge said, referring to Earnest’s comments to police when he was arrested, the audience’s hand in the first trial and his verdict.

John T. Earnest obeys Supreme Court Judge Peter Deddeh during his trial in the Supreme Court, China, September 30, 2021, in San Diego. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

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Earnest, who was hanged on a device that prevented him from turning to the audience, did not show any visible reaction during the two-hour hearing as speakers called him a roadblock of death, an evil beast and a beast.

The prosecutor asked Deddeh to reconsider his refusal to allow Earnest to speak after consulting with a defense attorney about everything he said, but the judge refused.

San Diego County District Attorney Summ Stephan, who listened to the victims from the front-seat, told reporters that Earnest’s plan “was to increase hatred and spread lies” and that the judge rang the real phone. The prosecutor asked the judge to investigate only to protect any chance that Earnest claims to have been abused, he said.

The lawyer appointed by Earnest’s court declined to comment to reporters. Her parents did not go.

Minutes after the shooting, Earnest called 911 an angel saying he had shot in the synagogue to save the Whites. “I am defending our country from the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all whites,” he said.

A San Diego man was inspired by several shootings at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, shortly before he attacked Chabad of Pow, a synagogue near San Diego, on April 27, 2019. He regularly traveled to 8chan, a dark internet corner, media to post aggressive, discriminatory and violent views.

Earnest officially bought a semi-automatic rifle in San Diego the day before the attack, according to a federal affidavit. He entered the synagogue with ten bullets loaded and 50 on his vest but fled after struggling to reload. Worshipers chased him to his car.

Earnest killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, beat her twice in a foyer, and injured an eight-year-old girl, her grandfather and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who were taking the lead on a major Jewish holiday.

Dr. Howard Kaye, Lori’s 32-year-old husband, said he continued his rheumatology practice to help people recover regardless of their background but that it was difficult for him and their daughter to move on at times. Lori worked in charities and offered a job as a banker to raise her daughter, she said.

“She’s a great man and a beautiful woman,” said Howard Kaye.

Hannah Kaye paused to retaliate before giving the injured a sentence during the sentencing hearing of John T. Earnest in the Supreme Court, China, September 30, 2021, in San Diego.  (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

Hannah Kaye paused to retaliate before giving the injured a sentence during the sentencing hearing of John T. Earnest in the Supreme Court, China, September 30, 2021, in San Diego. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

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Hannah Kaye said her mother was caught up in the “old hatred” of the Jews. She described their last day together on a home visit from college in depth: their “deep and funny conversation” in the car, a final hug as her mother dressed for work and the way she held her mother’s head and said she loved her as she lay dying.

By the time she was 17, Lori Gilbert-Kaye had many ambitions, Hannah said, including wanting to go to law school, ride a hot air balloon and own a restaurant that served her father’s barbecue.

“She wanted to live one day, she wanted to live,” Hannah said of her mother’s death.

Almog Peretz, who was shot by his eight-year-old grandson, was unprepared for the hearing but a Hebrew interpreter read his statement about how the incident killed “my body and my soul.” He said his dream had come true and that some now describe him as “possessed by terrorists.”

“I have no motivation to see things to the end,” Peretz said, referring to work and friendship.

In this April 29, 2019, file file, Yisroel Goldstein, a rabbi of Chayad of Paulay, holds a yellow flower as he speaks at the funeral of Lori Kaye, pictured left, in Potow, California. Kaye, was killed on April 27, 2019, , had given Goldstein a flower as part of a flower the day before the shooting, which also injured Goldstein.  (AP Photo / Gregory Bull, Faira)

In this April 29, 2019, file file, Yisroel Goldstein, a rabbi of Chayad of Paulay, holds a yellow flower as he speaks at the funeral of Lori Kaye, pictured left, in Potow, California. Kaye, was killed on April 27, 2019, , had given Goldstein a flower as part of a flower the day before the shooting, which also injured Goldstein. (AP Photo / Gregory Bull, Faira)
(AP Photo / Gregory Bull)

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Earnest’s parents issued a statement after the shooting expressing surprise and sadness, calling their son’s actions a “terrible horror.” Their son was an educated, actress and musician who was training to become a nurse at California State University, San Marcos.

“Our great shame, has now become part of the history of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people for centuries,” he said.

In a statement issued in late China, the family said “our hearts are heavy and our sorrows are deep.”

“Right now, we can’t add to the words we once said, except that the hatred that motivated him will not prevail. Love must prevail,” the statement said.

His conviction for murder and attempted murder in a synagogue and for setting fire to a front yard at a nearby mosque carries a life sentence without parole, with 137 years in prison.

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Earnest also faced trial in federal court on December 28, pleading guilty after the Justice Department said it was not seeking a death sentence. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are pushing for a life sentence.

Stephan, a district attorney, said being sued by the state court “makes me sleep better at night.”

The attack was “racism, instability and ethnic hatred wrapped up in one thing,” he said.

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