The white teenager accused of gunning down 10 black people in a race-fueled mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket pleaded not guilty Monday to 27 federal hate crime charges that could be punishable by the death penalty.
A court-appointed attorney entered the not guilty plea on behalf of 19-year-old Payton Gendron, who remained silent during the brief arraignment, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and shackles.
The lawyer told the judge in the western New York federal courthouse that she hoped to resolve the case before trial, signaling that Gendron may end up pleading guilty to some or all of the charges in the 27-count indictment against him.
The Department of Justice has not yet decided whether it will seek the death penalty in the case.
Federal prosecutors secured the indictment from a New York grand jury last week, detailing how Gendron allegedly substantially planned for the May 14 massacre and took aim at vulnerable older people.
The avowed white supremacist is accused of opening fire with a Bushmaster XM rifle at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, targeting black shoppers and store employees because of their race.
Gendron, of Conklin, NY, allegedly scrawled racist screeds on his rifle in white paint, including “Here’s your reparations!”
“The Justice Department fully recognizes the threat that white supremacist violence poses to the safety of the American people and American democracy,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement after the federal indictment was unsealed on the two-month anniversary of the massacre.
“We will continue to be relentless in our efforts to combat hate crimes, to support the communities terrorized by them, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them,” he added.
If the feds do not seek the death penalty, Gendron faces life in prison on the federal charges.
He also faces state charges for the bloodbath, including hate-motivated domestic terrorism, murder and attempted murder as a hate crime. If convicted of the domestic terrorism hate crime charge, he would get an automatic life sentence. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
With Post wires