The man accused of gunning down nine African Americans last month inside a historic black church known as “Mother Emanuel” has told his lawyers that he currently plans to plead guilty to federal hate crime charges, Dylann Roof’s attorney David Bruck told a federal judge Friday.
However, Bruck said that because federal officials have not decided whether to seek a death sentence for some of those charges, he had told Roof not to enter that plea. As a result, Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant said a “not guilty” plea — effectively a temporary plea — would be entered for the alleged shooter.
“We are not able to advise Mr. Roof to enter a plea of guilty” until the government makes a decision on the death penalty, Bruck said.
Dylann Storm Roof, 21, appeared in a courtroom blocks from the site of the massacre as he was formally read the 33 federal charges stemming from the shooting. Roof, who had already been charged with nine counts of murder, was indicted last week on the federal hate crime charges.
Roof was captured in North Carolina the day after the June 17 attack and was brought back to South Carolina. Law enforcement officials have said he admitted to the killings.
If he’s found guilty of the federal charges, Roof faces life imprisonment or the death penalty, but federal prosecutors said they haven’t decided on whether to seek the death penalty.
South Carolina authorities have provided an image on Twitter of Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, a former British colony where a white minority ruled until 1980 and whose name was changed to Zimbabwe.
Roof also had a website called “The Last Rhodesian” that included a long, hate-filled racist manifesto. The site included photos of Roof burning an American flag, taking aim with a pistol and posing proudly at places connected to the Confederacy.