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No post-prison Thor’s hammer for man convicted of synagogue bomb plot

After pleading guilty to plotting to blow up a Colorado synagogue, Richard Holzer challenged a condition of his 15-year supervised release term that bars him from obtaining items and symbols connected to white supremacy.

DENVER (CN) — A Colorado man who pleaded guilty to plotting the attack of a synagogue in 2019 cannot challenge probation conditions that bar him from obtaining Nazi swastikas, the Blood Drop Cross, or Thor’s hammer, a 10th Circuit panel ruled Monday.

Authorities arrested Richard Holzer in November 2019 after he discussed plans with undercover federal agents to blow up the Temple Emanuel, a small synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado.

Holzer accepted a plea agreement in 2020 that included an appeal waiver and was sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release. While on supervised release, Holzer is banned from possessing antisemitic or white supremacy symbols including “Mein Kampf, swastikas, iron crosses, other Nazi memorabilia or symbolism; Thor’s hammer; KKK symbolism; numeric symbols 12, 14, 18, 88, 311, or 1488; the Aryan Fist; 14 words; the Celtic cross; the Sonnenrad; the Valknut; and the Blood Drop Cross.”

Holzer, 30, appealed the conditions to the 10th Circuit, arguing they interfere with his ability to practice his own religion. As a follower of the pagan, polytheistic Asatru faith, Holzer compared the significance of Thor’s hammer to the Star of David for Jews.

"Specifically, Holzer argues that special condition nine infringes on his First Amendment rights, and that the district court failed to make any particularized findings to support the special condition,” Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote for the panel in a 22-page opinion.

“We conclude that Holzer’s challenge to special condition nine is barred by the appellate waiver provision of his plea agreement,” the Bill Clinton appointee continued. “Consequently, we dismiss Holzer’s appeal."

When Holzer pleaded guilty to two of three counts recommended by a federal grand jury, he signed an appeal waiver. The waiver only authorized Holzer to appeal appeal if his sentence exceeded the statutory maximum or 240 months, or if the government filed an appeal first.

Importantly, the appeal waiver also spelled out the maximum penalties Holzer faced, including a "lifetime of supervised release."

Since he faced a maximum of a lifetime on supervised release, Holzer was therefore unable to appeal any of the conditions.

In the appellate brief, Holzer's public defender, Grant Smith, worried the overbroad condition could prevent Holzer from owning an “Avengers” DVD or receiving a check for $88.

Though the court did not attempt to untangle whether Thor’s hammer and other items of religious significance were wrongly prohibited, U.S. Attorney Paul Farley had said during oral argument that the items were only banned if they were being used in connection with white supremacy.   

U.S. Circuit Judges Carolyn B. McHugh and Robert Bacharach, both Barack Obama appointees, rounded out the panel.

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Categories / Appeals, Criminal

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