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El Paso massacre suspect expected to plead guilty to federal hate crimes

2023-02-08T11:04:13Z

People gather during a tribute to the victims of a mass shooting at a Walmart store, in the growing memorial in El Paso, Texas, U.S., August 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

A Texas man accused of targeting Latinos during a 2019 massacre that left 23 people dead at an El Paso Walmart store is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to federal hate crimes.

Lawyers for alleged shooter Patrick Crusius said in a court filing last month that Crusius would change his plea to guilty. That decision came just days after federal prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty against him.

Crusius, scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, faces life in prison on the federal charges. He faces the death penalty on state charges.

A Texas judge last year put off a state trial in the case, saying that determining how to proceed would be affected by the decision from federal prosecutors on whether they would seek capital punishment. The Texas court issued a gag order that prevents prosecutors, defense lawyers, victims and family members from discussing the case.

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 at shoppers with an AK-47 rifle inside the Walmart store. He surrendered to officers who confronted him outside.

A racist manifesto that prosecutors say was posted online by Crusius on 8chan, a now-defunct message board often used by extremists, said the Walmart 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 against him.

In 2020, his lawyers argued that Crusius, then 21, had been diagnosed with severe, lifelong neurological and mental disabilities and should not face execution if convicted.