Skinheads plead guilty in synagogue attack

LOS ANGELES, July 17 (JTA) — Five skinheads could spend decades in prison after pleading guilty to charges they tried to firebomb a Nevada synagogue last year.

Five young men, aged 19 to 35, attempted to torch Temple Emanu-El in Reno on Nov. 30, 1999.

They initially shattered a temple window by throwing a plastic bottle filled with concrete, and followed up with a Molotov cocktail. However, the gasoline bomb fell short and burned only the sidewalk.

Of the five skinheads, four pleaded guilt to charges of conspiracy against the rights of citizens; damage to religious property, which is a hate crime; and use of fire or explosives to commit a felony.

They face up to 40 years in jail.

One defendant, the youngest, pleaded guilty to lesser charges. His maximum sentence is 35 years.

Two juvenile girls involved in the case have been committed to the state’s youth correctional facility.

Sentencing for the five skinheads is scheduled for Oct. 30.

A group of Jewish Defense League members from Los Angeles arrived last week in Reno with the intention of burning Nazi and Confederate flags in front of the federal building in Reno to protest the skinheads.

Even though the guilty pleas were made the night before the trial, the flag burning proceeded as planned to call attention, said JDL leader Irv Rubin, to “the cancer of racial hatred.” Across the street from the federal building, six self-declared white supremacists unfurled Confederate and Nazi flags and raised their arms in the Nazi salute.

The two sides exchanged obscenities, but there was no violence or arrests, reported the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper.

Rabbi Avraham Keller of Temple Emanu-El said that the guilty pleas had brought closure to the incident, but he was critical of the JDL.

The flag-burning “was not a way to convey a message,” Keller said. “The JDL doesn’t represent the Jewish community or members of the Jewish community who live here.”

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