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Synagogue bombing suspect pleads not guilty

Transient Ron Hirsch, 60, is charged with four federal felony counts in the April 7 blast at Santa Monica Chabad House.

May 24, 2011|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times

A transient suspected of setting off a large explosive device outside a Santa Monica synagogue pleaded not guilty Monday in Los Angeles federal court to multiple felony charges in connection with the incident.

A grand jury indictment accuses Ron Hirsch, 60, of four federal felony counts: use of an explosive to damage property, use of an explosive to commit a federal felony, use of a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

If convicted of all charges, Hirsch could face up to 70 years in federal prison.

Hirsch is believed responsible for the April 7 blast that sent a 300-pound metal pipe encased in concrete crashing through the roof of a home next to the Santa Monica Chabad House on 17th Street near Broadway.

No one was injured, but the debris crashed through the bedroom ceiling where a 12-year-old girl was sleeping, according to a federal court affidavit.

Authorities at first said no foul play was involved in the blast but later determined that explosives had been used.

A federal search warrant said Hirsch bought three 11-pound bags of a "demolition agent" April 1 in Clovis, Calif.

The package was sent to Hirsch at a Santa Monica address, a link that was established by a receipt found at the scene, officials said.

In addition, federal investigators found plumbing tape, empty dry-ice bags, five pieces of rebar, bags of concrete and a steel pipe wrench, the warrant said.

Hirsch fled the Los Angeles area on a bus shortly after the explosion and was eventually tracked to a Chabad House in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, after witnesses, including a rabbi, tipped authorities.

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