By Brad Brooks
(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – A Texas man accused of targeting Latinos during a 2019 massacre of 23 people at an El Paso Walmart store pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal hate crimes, according to a spokesman for the office of the United States Attorney who is prosecuting the case.
Patrick Crusius, 24, changed his guilty plea during a hearing in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas after federal prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty.
Crusius faces life in prison on federal charges. He still faces the death penalty on state charges in an ongoing trial.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Crusius, a self-styled white nationalist, was convicted on a total of 90 counts, but that “nothing can undo the immeasurable loss” suffered by the families of the victims.
“Today’s action makes clear that the Justice Department will not tolerate hate-fueled violence that endangers the safety of our communities,” Garland said in a statement.
Crusius’ attorney, Joe Spencer, told reporters after the hearing that Crusius had long wanted to plead guilty to the federal charges.
“He’s glad it’s finally over,” Spencer said. “There are no winners in this case. He’s about to serve 90 consecutive life sentences.”
Spencer said he could say no more, given a silence order issued by a state court judge and with Crusius still in the state process. No trial date has been set in the state case.
A Texas judge last year postponed the state trial, saying determining how to proceed would be influenced by federal prosecutors’ decision on whether or not to seek capital punishment.
Federal prosecutors say Crusius drove 11 hours to El Paso, on the U.S. border with Mexico, from his home in a suburb near Dallas on Aug. 3, 2019, and fired a shotgun at shoppers styled AK-47 inside the Walmart store. He surrendered to the officers who confronted him nearby.
A racist manifesto that prosecutors say Crusius posted online minutes before the shooting claimed the attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Crusius pleaded not guilty in 2020 to 90 federal hate crime charges. Proceedings were delayed while prosecutors decided whether to pursue the death penalty.
In 2020, his lawyers argued that Crusius, then 21, had been diagnosed with severe neurological and mental disabilities throughout his life and would not face execution if convicted.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Donna Bryson, Leslie Adler, Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)