Prosecutors can still pursue a hate crime charge against someone who has been accused killing five people inside a Colorado LGBTQ nightclub despite the suspect’s identity as nonbinary, legal experts said.
Defense attorneys wrote in court documents Tuesday that the suspect is Anderson Lee Aldrich; recognizes nonbinary. Although prosecutors have yet to file formal charges, Aldrich remains in custody on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in conjunction with Saturday night’s screening at Club Q, considered the center of the LGBT community in Colorado Springs.
Someone can be charged with a federal crime motivated by hatred or hatred, even if they belong to the same community they were charged with, several prosecutors and experts told The Denver Post. The key factor, they said, is whether prosecutors have evidence to indicate interest in that group, not necessarily which group the suspect claims to belong to.
“It doesn’t matter who they are — if they’re victimized, that’s what matters,” said Doug Richards, a Denver defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.
“I think that if you can show that the shooting was motivated, it would apply to a hate crime and it doesn’t matter what the motive is,” added Mitch Morrissey, who previously served as his Denver attorney.
Club Q’s attack comes just minutes before the start of Transgender Day of Remembrance and among others; national increase in anti-LGBT rhetoric. The timing and location of the shooting have drawn intense speculation about the suspect’s motive, along with prosecutors acting to treat it as a hate crime. Formal charges are expected to be filed in the coming weeks.
Law enforcement has yet to release details of Aldrich’s alleged case, including his testimony supporting the charges against him.
Judy Shepard, who founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation after her son was killed in a homophobic attack, said she was pressured by prosecutors. She, like others, said initial facts suggest the case was motivated by hate, but noted authorities have not released evidence to support that claim.
Much of Aldrich’s background remains unclear after the fourth day, and relatives have almost uniformly avoided speaking to the press. But Aldrich’s estranged father, Aaron Brink. he said to a California TV station on Wednesday that Brink was opposed to homosexuality and Aldrich had made those feelings clear. Brink said he had limited contact with Aldrich over the past decade, because he believed Aldrich had been dead for several years.
Aldrich changed its name in 2016 He distanced himself from Brink and had a criminal history, according to Texas court records.
Shortly after Aldrich’s the first appearance of the Court of MercuryFourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said at a news conference that the suspect’s gender identity will not affect his decision to issue a statement.
“I’m looking for the records, the arguments that took place here,” he said. “This is what we look at when we make decisions.”
Evidence may be presented at trial regarding Aldrich’s identity, legal experts told the Post. Morrissey said that if prosecutors were to pursue impeachment charges, they could also introduce other evidence — such as social media reports — that would otherwise not be admissible in court, but would support allegations of a certain conviction.
“I don’t know if he’s stupid or not,” Morrissey said. “Obviously, there would have to be some argument or other that would be his orientation, but because you have the same intention you can’t say you can’t have a bias against the group. But (the LGBTQ community) is a very broad group.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said he knows of cases in which a class action protected person is “based on hatred” against a group they claim to belong to. Speaking mostly about hate and motivation-based crimes, Dougherty said a recent change in Colorado law means prosecutors must prove a person accused of crimes was motivated in part by that motivation or hate.
“In every case of hate crimes, generally speaking, investigators and prosecutors look to individual social media evidence, digital evidence, as well as statements to friends, family, colleagues in the days, weeks and months leading up to the incident, as well as anything said during the attack or by witnesses or law enforcement after an attack,” Dougherty said.
Officials pointed out that if Aldrich was charged and convicted of first-degree murder, then the charge of aggravated assault did nothing to support his conviction – first-degree murder convictions in Colorado carry life sentences without parole. .
but federal prosecutors could still pursue hate crime charges. Shepard, who through the Matthew Shepard Foundation has helped expand federal crime statutes, said that will only happen if federal officials “feel they can add to what Colorado is doing.”
Federal prosecutors in Colorado recently filed a hate crime charge against a self-identified neo-Nazi and white supremacist who in 2019 and they planned to blow up the Pueblo synagogue. The man pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and explosive charges and was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado has not pursued hate crime charges against the man who killed three people and injured eight when he opened fire at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2014. Freedom of Access to Clinic Admissions Act of 1994 which makes it a crime to prevent people from accessing reproductive health services or to harm themselves as they do so.