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Dresch seeks pretrial release

Copper County man’s charges stem from Jan. 6 incident at Capitol

WASHINGTON — One of the Copper Country men charged with participation in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol appeared in court virtually for a hearing on whether he should be released while he awaits trial.

Karl Dresch, 40, of Calumet, has been in custody since his initial court appearance in January, when a federal magistrate in Michigan determined he posed a flight and safety risk.

Dresch is one of six people charged in Michigan in connection with the attack, including Jeremy Sorvisto, Jr., who was seen with Dresch in photos taken at the Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she would issue a written ruling later.

Dresch’s politics would not factor into her decision, Jackson said. At the start of the nearly hour-long hearing, Jackson quoted from a Court of Appeals ruling overturning another Jan. 6 defendant’s detention order. While the breach of the Capitol was a “grave danger to our democracy,” the detention hearing is about the risk the defendant poses going forward, she said.

“Whether the defendant will be released is an individualized decision, and what I’m about to do is how I always go about it,” she said.

Federal code on pretrial release lays out four factors to be considered in whether to release Dresch: the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; the weight of the evidence against the person; the person’s history and characteristics, which include traits such as character and employment but also any whether the person was on probation, parole or release on other charges; and the nature and seriousness of the danger the person might pose to another person or the community if released.

In examining the nature of the circumstances, Jackson looked at the letters in support of Dresch who said he was not violent but got “caught up in the crowd.” She compared that with his social media posts before and after the incident, including a pre-Jan. 6 post saying “NO EXCUSES! NO RETREAT! NO SURRENDER! TAKE THE STREETS! TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY! 1/6/2021=7/4/1776,” and one the day after the incident saying “Mike Pence gave our country to the communist hordes, traitor scum like the rest of them, we have your back give the word and we will be back even stronger.”

Other posts reference someone Dresch believed to be responsible for sending his posts to the FBI.

While it’s possible “some people got caught up in the heat of the moment and the excitement of the president’s call to march down the street,” Jackson said, “I’m not sure it can be said of this defendant is someone who suddenly found himself on Jan. 6 somewhere that he hadn’t anticipated six weeks before.”

He appeared to be “quite proud” of Jan. 6, and also had access to weapons, Jackson said. When executing search warrants at Dresch’s house, officers found several hundred rounds found in several rooms throughout the house, as well as four firearms.

Despite the rhetoric, there was no evidence Dresch had committed any acts of violence or assault during the Jan. 6 insurrection, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell said.

Firearms, which the magistrate in Michigan had listed as one of the deciding factors, came up frequently. Dresch is barred from possessing firearms due to a 2013 conviction, officials said.

Dresch’s attorney, Jerry Ray Smith, Jr., pointed to an affidavit from Dresch’s 78-year-old mother that three of the guns had passed to her when her husband died in 2006, and that she had put the guns in the house for storage. Dresch had lived there for a only year or so, and it was unclear if he had access to the guns, Smith said.

“There’s no evidence he actually possessed those guns,” she said.

“Even in her declaration she hasn’t lived in that house for years,” Jackson said. “He’s the one who lived there, and the ammunition was found all over the house.”

Smith said much of the ammunition is fairly old, and had also probably been there before Dresch moved in; one of the manufacturers had not made that ammunition since 2009, he said. In a court filing, Smith said while ammo was found in a Braves backpack that Dresch appeared to bring to Washington, there is no indication he brought a firearm on the trip.

Smith said he was unclear on when the fourth gun came to the house, as it was one of two not found in the initial search. Blackwell said nothing should be read into that, as the first search warrant was based on evidence surrounding the Jan. 6 charges and did not give officers authority to confiscate firearms. As a convicted felon, Dresch is also barred from possessing ammunition, Blackwell said.

Jackson also looked at the history of Dresch, who she said is by all accounts a loving father to his 13-year-old son and a hard worker. Dresch, who has worked as a laborer, had been on unemployment during the pandemic and had supplemented his income by selling political paraphernalia from his front porch.

A number of testimonials were submitted to the court on his behalf, including from Hancock Mayor Paul LaBine, Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean, and Dresch’s pastor.

LaBine, who had represented Dresch as attorney several times, said he had occasionally exercised “poor judgment,” but had always shown up when asked and faced the consequences of his actions.

“Most importantly, I have never known Mr. Dresch to be violent in any way, nor do I believe him to be a flight risk nor a person who would obstruct justice,” he wrote.

Jackson said she would consider the widespread nature of his support network. However, Jackson wondered if the people who said “violence is not in his nature” followed him on Facebook.

Some of the writers appeared to be family friends who knew his father Stephen Dresch, a former state legislator, but only distantly knew Karl, she said. Jackson also noted a statement made in McLean’s letter, which called Dresch “a very bright kid.”

“He is 40 years old,” she said. “…Tom Brady was the MVP of the NFL when he was 40, and he’d won five Super Bowls by then. Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas before he was 40. Sen. Josh Hawley is 41, and he’s not even the youngest senator there. Martin Luther King was 38 when he died. We are assessing an individual who is responsible for his own actions.”

Jackson also asked about the 2013 conviction, for which Dresch spent nearly two years in prison. After police attempted to pull Dresch over on suspicion of drunk driving, he led them on a chase of up to 145 mph, officials said.

That and Dresch’s previous arrests all came in adulthood, in his 20s and 30s, Blackwell said.

“The government submits that this behavior was not an aberration,” she said. “…This is a pattern and practice. It doesn’t matter that this was eight years ago. This is who Mr. Dresch is.”

But that charge did not indicate whether Dresch would disobey court orders, Smith said.

“It was eight years ago,” Smith said. “He did successfully complete his probation. He hasn’t been in trouble since that time until he got arrested in this case … it was some very reckless conduct that’s really not relevant to whether he’s deliberately failed to appear (in court) before.”

Dresch faces a felony charge of obstruction of justice and four misdemeanors: entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing a capitol building.

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