By Julio-Cesar Chavez
EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – A Texas man pleaded not guilty to 90 federal hate crime charges on Wednesday after he was accused of deliberately targeting people of Mexican heritage in the shooting rampage that killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso last year.
Patrick Crusius, 21, entered the not guilty plea in an arraignment waiver document filed after his first appearance in federal court in El Paso, Texas. An arraignment waiver means the defendant is aware of the charges and is entering an initial plea of not guilty.
Crusius faces a separate capital murder trial in state court on the Walmart shooting. He has pled not guilty to those charges.
On Wednesday, Crusius, in shackles and wearing a suit, appeared before Judge Miguel Torres and was informed of his rights. Crusius did not speak during the hearing, communicating through his attorneys.
His court-appointed lawyers in the federal trial, David Lane and Rebecca Hudsmith, declined to comment after the hearing.
Crusius was charged by the Justice Department last week with the hate crimes.
He is accused of driving 11 hours to El Paso from his hometown of Allen, near Dallas, on Aug. 3 last year, and firing at shoppers with an AK-47 rifle inside the Walmart store. He surrendered to officers who confronted him outside.
Crusius confessed while surrendering and told police he was targeting Mexicans, according to a police affidavit released days after the shooting. Most of those killed were Latinos.
A manifesto that prosecutors say was posted online by Crusius on 8chan, a now-defunct message board often used by extremists, said the Walmart attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
(Reporting by Julio Cesar-Chavez in El Paso, Texas; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)