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Neo-Nazi pleads guilty in plot to bomb one of Colorado's oldest synagogues

Richard Holzer, who wanted to blow up a synagogue but was unknowingly in contact with undercover FBI agents, is facing 20 years in prison.
Signs, flowers and candles expressive support for the Jewish community stand outside the Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colo., on Nov. 5, 2019.Christian Murdock / The Gazette via AP

A self-proclaimed neo-Nazi pleaded guilty Thursday to a plot to blow up one of Colorado's oldest synagogues in 2019, federal prosecutors said.

Richard Holzer, 28, discussed with undercover FBI agents plans to destroy the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo in the middle of the night. He was arrested in November.

He pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts, one a federal hate crime charge and another that deals with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado said in a statement.

Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, but under in a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend no more than two decades. Federal public defenders representing Holzer declined to comment.

Holzer promoted white supremacy and acts of violence online, and in September 2019, he was approached by an FBI employee posing as a white supremacist, according to court documents.

Holzer, who said he was preparing for a "racial holy war," eventually met other undercover agents at a motel to pick up two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite — which had been made by the FBI and could not explode, the documents say.

After his arrest, Holzer confessed, prosecutors said. He said he didn't plan on hurting anyone, but if people had been inside he still would have gone ahead with the attack.

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband said in a statement that the attack was intended to drive Jewish people from Pueblo, a city of 110,000 around 40 miles south of Colorado Springs.

"Violence motivated by religious intolerance strikes at the heart of a free society, and the Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute these violent acts of hate," he said.

Temple Emanuel was constructed in 1900 and is the second-oldest synagogue in Colorado, according to court documents.