Colorado Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime and Arson Charges After Plotting to Blow Up Colorado Temple

Richard Holzer, 28, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and explosive charges
El Paso County Sheriff's Office

Richard Holzer, 28, was arrested by the FBI last November and indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime and arson charges.

A Colorado man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to federal hate crime and explosives charges for plotting to blow up the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, according to federal prosecutors. Richard Holzer, 28, was arrested by the FBI last November and indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime and arson charges, officials said. 

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, and with attempting to maliciously damage and destroy, by means of fire and explosives, a building used in interstate commerce, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

“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. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute these violent acts of hate.”

The FBI began their investigation of Holzer in late September after receiving a tip about comments he made online, the bureau’s topic official in Colorado said last year, according to CNN. 

Undercover FBI agents approached Holzer online soon after the tip and interacted with him as he allegedly plotted the attack on Temple Emanuel, authorities said. 

Holzer, who self identifies as a Neo-Nazi and a white supremacist, used social media accounts to promote white supremacy ideology and acts of violence, the DOJ said. Officials also said he described himself as a skinhead and shared pictures of himself with other social media users with guns and knives alongside white supremacist symbols, CNN reported.

Holzer, according to prosecutors, wrote on one Facebook account: "I wish the Holocaust really did happen... they need to die.”

And at one point, he visited Temple Emanuel to observe Jewish congregants, the DOJ said. 

A public defender representing Holzer declined to comment on the case, CNN reported.

During several meetings with undercover FBI agents, Holzer shared his hatred of Jewish people and suggested using explosive devices to destroy the synagogue. He told 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 die. 

Agents said he told them that he wanted to “get that place off the map,” and that he removed a copy of “Mein Kampf” from his bag and told the agent that “this is a move for our race.” 

Holzer admitted that he coordinated with the undercover agents to obtain explosives, two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite, that he said he planned to detonate during the early hour of Saturday morning, Nov. 2, 2019.

Undercover agents had met with Holzer on Nov. 1, 2019, and provided him with inert explosive devices that had been fabricated by the FBI. 

The actions Holzer admitted in the plea agreement meet the federal definition of domestic terrorism, as the involved criminal acts dangerous to human life that was intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, the DOJ said. 

Holzer is set to be sentenced on Jan. 20, 2021. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the hate crime charge and 20 years for the explosives charge, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release.