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Son of Michigan ex-lawmaker arrested; feds say he joined Capitol insurrection

The first known arrest in a federal criminal case for a Michigan resident stemming from the Capitol riot earlier this month was filed Tuesdayagainst an Upper Peninsula resident whose father served in the state Legislature three decades ago.

Karl Dresch of Calumet posted this photo of the U.S. Capitol on his Facebook page on Jan. 6, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by The Detroit News.

Karl Dresch of Calumet made his first official court appearance from Marquette Wednesday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Maarten Vermaat. He had been arrested by an FBI special agent after a Tuesday traffic stop in Calumet.

Dresch faces three charges in relation to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Vermaat said. The charges include knowingly entering or remaining in restricted grounds without lawful authority as well as impeding or disrupting official functions, a one-year misdemeanor carrying up to $100,000 in fines. The other charge is violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, a 6-month misdemeanor carrying an up to $5,000 fine.

He also faces a charge of obstructing an official proceeding, an up to 20-year felony carrying an up to $250,000 fine, Vermaat said.

During the hearing, Dresch said he worked in the flooring industry but business is slow.

Dresch is likely to appear next in court on Friday. It's possible his case could be moved to federal District of Columbia courts, Vermaat said. Dresch was assigned a court-appointed defense attorney.

When contacted by The Detroit News on Wednesday, Dresch's wife declined to comment.

Karl Dresch is the son of former state lawmaker Rep. Stephen Dresch, R-Hancock, according to public records. Dresch, who passed away in 2006, served in the state House of Representatives from 1990-92, when he unsuccessfully ran for Congress.

A former business and economics dean at Michigan Tech University, Stephen Dresch helped expose fraud by an investment arm of the university as he was entering the Legislature. As a legislator, he was a vocal critic of a 1993 House Fiscal Agency scandal in which $300,000 was spent for unauthorized employee bonuses and legal fees by the agency. 

In 2005, Stephen Dresch tipped off the FBI and members of Congress to explosives that were hidden in the former home of Terry Nichols, a Michigan resident convicted as an accomplice to Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. 

The former lawmaker owned a firm called Forensic Intelligence International and came by the information through advocacy work with mobster Gregory Scarpa Jr., who was being held in the same prison as Nichols. 

FBI released a photo of Karl Dresch's Calumet home in court documents Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

'We are in'

In its complaint against Karl Dresch, the FBI supported its allegations of unlawful entry into the Capitol with pictures the Upper Peninsula man posted on social media as the mob stormed the building in Washington, D.C.

Among them, a photograph posted on Facebook with the title “We are in" that a U.S. Capitol Police Officer confirmed shows the inside of the U.S. Capitol Building, "specifically, the 'Crypt,' a location under the rotunda in the center of the Capitol," the filing stated.

Karl Dresch sent this photo of a pose next to a statue of former Vice President John C. Calhoun inside the U.S. Capitol during the riot to an associate on Jan. 8, FBI agents said.

Another appeared to show Dresch elsewhere in the crypt, near a statue of John Caldwell Calhoun, who served as vice president of the United States under Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

Dresch also found time to message other users on Facebook about the actions, federal officials allege, citing records they obtained.

“That's right outside the house of representative...we got in! Took a lil gas ...wtf I love masks now!” he allegedly wrote.

Authorities rushed to find the 40-year-old amid a push to apprehend those among President Donald Trump loyalists who broke into the Capitol building in a bid to stop lawmakers from confirming President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the November election.

More than 125 people have been arrested so far on charges related to the violent insurrection, which left a Capitol police officer and four others dead. Charges range from curfew violations to serious federal felonies related to theft and weapons possession, the Associated Press reported. 

The incident led the House of Representatives to last week vote to impeach Trump for the second time in his presidency and officials to greatly expand security measures at Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

Noting cellphone video footage showing the protester's alleged presence, the FBI received a tip Jan. 7 that Dresch had attended and posted details on his Facebook account, investigators said.

Through a search warrant, a special agent learned the Michigan man had been posting about the election certification, allegedly writing "Stop the Steal" and equating the date with historical events surrounding the Declaration of Independence.

By Jan. 3, "Dresch posted that he was preparing to go to 'DC', and was 'prepared for chemical attacks and what not,' " according to the federal filing. "He also urged others to do so (through Facebook), writing, 'NO EXCUSES! NO RETREAT! NO SURRENDER! TAKE THE STREETS! TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY! 1/6/2021=7/4/1776'."

When the day arrived, Dresch allegedly posted a picture showing a large crowd of Trump supporters approaching the U.S. Capitol building under an overcast sky.

Facebook records determined the metadata for the photo taken in the "crypt" was shot on a Motorola phone at 2:26 p.m., minutes after lawmakers were told to evacuate as rioters swarmed, according to the court filing.

Another picture Dresch allegedly sent to a user on Facebook around 2:44 p.m. showed a large group in what a Capitol police officer determined was part of the Capitol Visitor Center close to the House of Representatives, the special agent wrote. 

"Word is police are getting ready to use tear gas,” the Facebook user messaged Dresch minutes later. He quickly responded, “Been using it. Mask up."

Facebook records show that at about 5:17 p.m., Dresch allegedly forwarded a "selfie" to a third person with a message: “Just had a beer on our front porch."

A selfie Dresch sent to a Facebook user on Jan. 6.

Dresch later commented on other posts related to the insurrection, the FBI said, including leaving a remark on a picture of a crowd at the Washington Monument: “Total Victory!"

Posting an image from the Capitol Visitor’s Center shortly after 12:11 a.m. on Jan. 7, Dresch wrote,  the filing said, "...we the people took back our house, the news is all (bulls***).and now those traitors Know who’s really in charge. And I can’t say I saw any violence from our people, despite all the poking of the capitol police, gassing randomly into the women and children being peaceful, beating old men we kept chill[.]”

Investigators tracked Dresch to Calumet, where they spotted him driving a Toyota Camry registered to his wife, according to the filing. They also seized a black Motorola.

Dresch was found guilty of fleeing and eluding police in Wisconsin in relation to a 2013 offense, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records. One or more other charges were dismissed against him.

Wisconsin’s The Daily News reported in 2014 that Dresch, then a 33-year-old Hancock resident, led police on a chase through the state’s Iron and Florence counties and into Michigan’s Iron County on June 7, 2013.  The chase, the newspaper reported, reached up to 146 miles per hour.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

eleblanc@detroitnews.com