Denver, Colorado - A Colorado man was sentenced Friday in federal court in Colorado for plotting to blow up a synagogue. Richard Holzer, 28, was sentenced to over 19 years in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release. Holzer previously pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and explosives charges for plotting to blow up the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, conduct that constituted acts of domestic terrorism. Holzer told undercover FBI agents that he wanted the bombing to send a message to Jewish people that they must leave his town, “otherwise people will die.”
Holzer 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, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 247, and to attempting to maliciously damage and destroy, by means of fire and explosives, a building used in interstate commerce.
“The Department has combatted hate-based violent extremism and domestic terrorism since our inception,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin. “Today there is no higher priority. This sentencing serves as a reminder that these crimes will not be tolerated, and we will hold the individuals who engage in them fully accountable. From our Civil Rights Division, our National Security Division, and the FBI, to the Office for Victims of Crime and our Community Relations Service, the Department of Justice will use every tool at its disposal to identify, disrupt, deter, and prevent hate-based, extremist threats to members of the American public.”
“Today’s sentence is another step forward in our on-going fight against extremism,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn of the District of Colorado. “About two-and-a-half years ago, my first day as U.S. Attorney took me to a vigil for victims from the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue attack. Today, my last day in the office, we have sentenced the extremist responsible for the attempted bombing of the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo. We must remain ever vigilant in this battle and I am confident the Department will continue to lead this fight.”
“Protecting our communities from terrorism, both domestic and international, is a top priority for the FBI. Mr. Holzer targeted a place of worship for violence and destruction to drive people of the Jewish faith from our community," said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. "Today’s sentence demonstrates the commitment by the FBI and our law enforcement partners to ensure that if a crime is motivated by bias against a religion or any other federally protected status, it will be aggressively investigated, and the perpetrators held responsible for their actions. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the FBI’s Southern Colorado Joint Terrorism Task Force, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, Pueblo Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to hold Mr. Holzer accountable for plotting violent acts of hate.”
Holzer, who self-identifies as a Neo-Nazi and white supremacist, admitted that he planned to destroy Temple Emanuel, a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The planned bombing, which Holzer declared was “a move for our race,” was born from years of Holzer consuming and promoting white supremacist ideology. Holzer regularly used social media to glorify violence and advocate for white supremacy. After an undercover FBI employee contacted Holzer, he sent pictures of himself holding automatic weapons and said he was “getting ready for RAHOWA,” shorthand for a racial holy war.
Holzer talked to associates for months about attacking Temple Emanuel, and he visited the synagogue to observe Jewish congregants. During a meeting with undercover agents to discuss his plans, Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and suggested using explosive devices to destroy the Synagogue. Holzer told the undercover agents that he wanted to “get that place off the map.” Holzer further admitted that he coordinated with the undercover agents to obtain explosives, including pipe bombs.
On the evening of Nov. 1, 2019, Holzer met with undercover agents, who provided Holzer with inert explosive devices that had been fabricated by the FBI, including two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite. Holzer removed a copy of “Mein Kampf” from his bag and told the undercover agents that the explosives looked “absolutely gorgeous.” Holzer admitted that he planned to detonate the explosives several hours later, in the early hours of Saturday morning, Nov. 2, 2019. After his arrest, Holzer explained that “The event planned for tonight would define me as a person who would die for his people.”
The actions Holzer admitted in the plea agreement meet the federal definition of domestic terrorism, as they involved criminal acts dangerous to human life that were intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.
Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Martinez prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Pueblo Police Department and Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office.