A judge acknowledged Thursday that there was enough evidence for the prosecution to proceed with a trial on dozens of murder and hate crime charges, finding that a shooter appeared to be motivated by prejudice against the LGBTQ community when planning an attack at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs that resulted in the deaths of five people and the injury of many more.
On Wednesday, Anderson Lee Aldrich’s alleged hate crime status was under dispute between the prosecution and defence counsel. According to witnesses, Aldrich had reportedly visited Club Q at least six times in the years before the incident. Aldrich uses the pronouns they and them and identifies as nonbinary. The area has long been a safe sanctuary for the city’s largely religious Homosexual population.
A rifle scope was posted online over a photo of a gay pride parade. Aldrich used homophobic slurs against people while playing online games, according to district attorney Michael Allen, who told the judge that this evidence demonstrated Aldrich’s “distaste for the LGBTQ community.”
He said that the attack was motivated by a “neo-Nazi white nationalist” shooting training video that Aldrich posted on a website they controlled and claimed that their mother had Aldrich go to the club.
“We presented evidence regarding the defendant’s aversion to the LGBTQ community, evidence related to the defendant’s mother forcing him to go to a club against his will and sort of forced that culture on him,” said Allen, who consistently used male pronouns for Aldrich.
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Aldrich’s defence contested that theory, alleging that Aldrich had used huge amounts of cocaine and many tablets of the sedative Xanax and the stimulant Adderall the night of the shooting. But, the hospital’s drug tests were destroyed.
By showing pictures of pill bottles carrying drugs that Aldrich had been prescribed to treat mental diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, the defence brought up Aldrich’s mental health for the first time. But, defence attorney Joseph Archambault remained mum on whether Aldrich had received a formal mental illness diagnosis.
Aldrich had expressed regret, and Archambault informed the judge that what had happened was “senseless, it was awful, and it was tragic.” He made the observation that the majority of mass murderers who target a certain group post manifestos online. He made it clear that Aldrich had not acted in that manner.
“It doesn’t excuse it. It’s not a defense. It doesn’t change anything. But it is categorically different than the people who target a group and are unapologetic about it later,” Archambault said.
Judge Michael McHenry declared that the case should go to trial despite the controversy surrounding hate crimes since sufficient evidence supports it.
Aldrich, who had intermittently sobbed throughout the testimony, was handcuffed as she entered the courtroom and was dressed in an orange jumpsuit. The 22-year-old is facing more than 300 accusations, including murder and crimes motivated by prejudice.
Aldrich will continue to be held without bond, as per Judge McHenry’s ruling. McHenry consented to the delay in the arraignment because he believed the defense could try to consult experts to establish whether Aldrich would be qualified to enter a plea of not guilty because of insanity. But, he warned Aldrich’s legal representatives that abusing drugs or consuming excessive alcohol cannot be used to establish insanity.
McHenry had to determine if the prosecution had proven during this week’s hearing that there was reason to believe Aldrich committed the crimes they are charged with committing before the case could proceed to trial. Prosecutors are held to a higher standard and must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to persuade juries to condemn defendants at a trial.
Unlike other crimes, allegations of hate crimes require the prosecution to demonstrate that Aldrich’s acts were at least partially motivated by prejudice.
Even if they identify as nonbinary, those who attack other members of protected groups like the LGBTQ community may still be charged with hate crimes. Laws that prohibit hate crimes place more emphasis on the victims than the perpetrator.
Lead investigator for the shooting Rebecca Joines claimed that Aldrich uploaded the neo-Nazi film on a website they were in charge of. The movie depicted assaults on mosques and synagogues worldwide, including two in New Zealand in 2019. Jones asserted that Aldrich did not produce the film, which was extensively shared online, and that she believed the attack on the club was an attempt to imitate it.