CHARLESTON, S.C.—The man accused of slaying nine parishioners as they worshipped at a South Carolina church was expected in court Friday to face dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes and obstructing the practice of religion.
Dylann Roof, 21, was scheduled to be arraigned in Charleston. The hearing, which was expected to be brief and would be his first appearance in federal court, was originally set for July 27 but was rescheduled to allow attorneys more time to prepare.
The federal prosecution, particularly on hate crimes, has been expected since the June 17 shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Church. Early on, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice said they felt the case met the qualifications for a hate crime, and Roof was indicted by a federal grand jury about a month after the killings.
Roof, who is white, appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning and desecrating U.S. flags. Federal authorities have confirmed his use of a personal manuscript in which he decried integration and used racial slurs to refer to blacks.
Because South Carolina has no state hate-crimes law, federal charges were needed to adequately address a motive that prosecutors believe was unquestionably rooted in racial hate, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during a news conference announcing Roof’s federal indictment.
Roof faces 33 federal charges in all, some of which could potentially carry the death penalty. The Justice Department has not decided whether it will seek the death penalty against Roof, nor whether its prosecution will come before a state case that includes murder charges and another potential death penalty prosecution.