Prosecutors Make Case for Pre-Meditated Attack on Gay Club
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Before killing five people and wounding over a dozen others at a gay nightclub, Anderson Lee Aldrich visited at least six previous times, drew a map showing the layout of the club and appeared to be planning to livestream the attack using a mobile phone. phone duct taped to a baseball hat found in their SUV, according to investigators.
Through testimony from police during a court hearing expected to wrap up Thursday, prosecutors have been making a case for a pre-meditated attack on Club Q last year that was inspired by a “neo-Nazi white supremacist” shooting training video as they try to Convince a judge that there is enough evidence to put Aldrich, 22, on trial for more than 300 charges including murder and bias-motivated crimes.
But on the first day of the hearing Wednesday, Aldrich’s lawyers countered with a picture of a suspect under the influence of drugs and forced by his troubled and sometimes abusive mother to go to LGBTQ clubs and as someone who has expressed remorse for the November shooting. The defense also brought up Aldrich’s mental health for the first time, showing photographs of pill bottles for drugs that Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they and them, had been prescribed to treat mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and PTSD. But defense attorney Joseph Archambault didn’t say if Aldrich had been formally diagnosed with any of those mental illnesses.
At this stage, Judge Michael McHenry must only decide whether prosecutors have shown during this week’s hearing that there is probable cause that Aldrich committed the crimes they are charged with in order for the case to move ahead to a trial. At a trial, prosecutors are held to a higher standard and must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convince jurors to convict defendants.
Unlike other crimes, hate crime charges require prosecutors to present evidence of a motive — that Aldrich was driven by bias, either wholly or in part.
Although Aldrich identifies as nonbinary, someone who is a member of a protected group such as the LGBTQ community can still be charged with a hate crime for targeting peers. Hate crime laws are focused on the victims, not the perpetrator.
The lead detective in the shooting, Rebecca Joines, testified that Aldrich posted the neo-Nazi video, which featured attacks on synagogues and mosques abroad, including on two mosques in New Zealand in 2019, on a website they either created or administered. Joines said Aldrich had not created the video, which has been posted by many others online, but said she believed they were seeking to emulate it with the attack on the club.
Aldrich also shared an image of a rifle scope trained on a gay pride parade and often used an anti-gay slur, according to two online acquaintances interviewed by investigators, Joines said.
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