DENVER (CN) – A Colorado man accused of plotting to bomb a synagogue pleaded not guilty Monday to three charges handed down by a federal grand jury.
Law enforcement arrested Richard Holzer, 27, on Nov. 1 after he discussed plans with undercover federal agents to blow up the Temple Emanuel, a small synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, according to federal prosecutors.
This past week, a federal grand jury formally indicted Holzer on three counts including “intentionally attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs, through force and the use and attempted use of explosives and fire.”
Holzer, 27, is also accused of attempted arson and using an explosive device to commit a felony.
Prosecutors say that Holzer told undercover FBI agents he wanted to “get that place off the map” – referring to the historic synagogue – while accepting what the government describes as two pipe bombs and bundles of dynamite.
According to the 11-page affidavit filed by FBI special agent John Smith, Holzer discussed his plan to target Temple Emanuel for more than a month.
An undercover FBI agent, identified as a white female, first contacted Holzer through Facebook on Sept. 28. According to the affidavit, Holzer told the agent he used to be in the Ku Klux Klan and is now a skinhead.
He told the undercover agent he paid $70 to a cook nicknamed “the Mexican Hitler” to hex a local synagogue and that last Halloween, the cook “put arsenic in the water pipes of the synagogue,” the affidavit says.
This Halloween, however, Holzer planned something even bigger, investigators say.
On Oct. 17, three undercover agents met Holzer and his friend Skeeter at a restaurant in Colorado Springs. Holzer brought “white supremacy paraphernalia as gifts for the UCs [undercover agents], including a flag, several patches, a metal Thor’s hammer, and a mask,” the affidavit says.
He told the agents about his dedication to RAHOWA – a Racial Holy War – he is engaged in based on the teachings of Matt Hale, according to investigators.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports Hale ran one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in America until his arrest in 2005, after which his followers broke up into many splinter cells. “Rahowa” is one of the group’s battle cries.
On Nov. 1, undercover agents brought Holzer two pipe bombs and two bundles of dynamite filled with harmless black powder. Holzer called the weapons “absolutely gorgeous” and thanked the agents “for your utmost effort. Like, this is a move for our race,” the affidavit says.
After his arrest, Holzer waived his Miranda rights and told agents “he had been planning to blow up a synagogue that night with the pipe bombs and dynamite in the motel room. He referred to the plan as ‘my mountain’ and to Jews and the synagogue as a ‘cancer’ to the community,’” the affidavit says.
U.S. Attorney Julia Martinez is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
After pleading “not guilty,” before U.S. Magistrate Scott Varholak on Monday, Holzer appeared before U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore.
“I dare say this is an unusual case,” said the Obama appointee, who called a status conference to “get a sense of the landscape of what’s out there” before setting a trial date.
The case will likely involve copious amounts of evidence including cellphone records, Facebook data, documents, audio and video footage, which Moore said he wanted to give both parties ample amount of time to review.
Attorney Mary Butterton leads Holzer’s defense.
Holzer remains under federal custody. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 50 years in prison.