DENVER, Colo. — Richard Holzer, the man arrested for plotting to blow up Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo in November 2019, pleaded guilty to to federal hate crime and explosives charges.
In the plea agreement, Holzer, 28, admitted he planned to destroy the synagogue that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The United Stated Department of Justice said Holzer, who self-identifies as a Neo-Nazi and a white supremacist, pleaded guilty to intentionally attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs, through force and the attempted use of explosives and fire and to attempting to maliciously damage and destroy, by means of fire and explosives, a building used in interstate commerce.
Federal agents arrested Holzer on Nov. 1, 2019 after they met up to talk about the plan to bomb the synagogue. The agents provided him two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite that were spoofs. According to the criminal complaint, Holzer also said he did not think anyone would be there when the explosives were set off, but that he also “would not care because they would be Jews." Before taking the explosives, Holzer pulled out a copy of “Mein Kampf” from his bag and told the undercover agents that “this is a move for our race.”
The FBI agents first connected with Holzer over Facebook in Sept. 2019 claiming to be a white woman interested in white supremacy. Holzer told the undercover employee he was a former Ku Klux Klan member and a skinhead.
Holzer used social media accounts to promote white supremacy ideology and acts of violence, according to the DOJ. He also visited Temple Emanuel to observe Jewish congregants, once telling undercover FBI agents that he wanted to do something that would tell Jewish people in the community that they are not welcome in Pueblo, and they should leave or they will die. Holzer also sent an undercover FBI agent pictures of himself holding automatic weapons and said he was “getting ready for RAHOWA,” shorthand for a racial holy war.
“The defendant attempted to bomb the Temple Emanuel Synagogue to drive people of Jewish faith out of his community,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “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.”
After the planned attack, the small, 35 family congregation saw people of all religions from both Colorado and New Mexico attending service to show support. They also received thousands in donations to purchase security cameras to add to the safety at the church.
Holzer's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2021 before U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore. Holzer. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the hate crime charge and 20 years for the explosives charge, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release.