High-powered Michigan friends push for accused Capitol rioter's release

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Powerful friends are pushing for the release of an Upper Peninsula man accused of storming the Capitol, including a county sheriff unconcerned that FBI agents seized a cache of weapons from the convicted felon's home.

Friends and supporters of Calumet resident Karl Dresch — including Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean — wrote letters to a federal judge requesting that Dresch be freed on bond while awaiting trial along with hundreds of others charged in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

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.

Dresch is not violent or dangerous, the friends wrote, despite a criminal record for leading police on a 145 miles-per-hour chase through Wisconsin and Michigan in 2013 and even though the FBI seized weapons from his home in January.

Two shotguns, a Glock .40-caliber pistol, a wood-bodied rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found inside the home, which is draped in "Trump 2020" banners and doubles as a former President Donald Trump novelty shop where Dresch sells pro-Trump paraphernalia, including flags, banners, baseball hats and wool hats.

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

Despite the firearm seizures in Dresch's home in Houghton County, he has not been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.

In a letter sent to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Thursday, McLean called the 40-year-old Dresch a "very bright kid," dismissed the notion that Dresch is dangerous and explained the felon's rap sheet as "a few brushes" with the law.

"Yes, there were weapons they found at his (apartment) in Calumet up here but nearly all homes here have weapons as we have a tremendous number of hunters and fishermen as well as a long history of military volunteers and retirees," McLean wrote on county letterhead.

There is no evidence Dresch assaulted anyone or destroyed property during the riot and no indication he forced his way into the Capitol, defense lawyer Jerry Ray Smith wrote in a court filing Thursday.

And the government has not revealed any evidence that Dresch, a hardwood floor installer who lives with his wife and 13-year-old son, possessed the firearms, Smith wrote.

"Beyond this, it is important to note that the guns that were allegedly recovered from the house would not qualify in anyone’s understanding as anything other than the type of ordinary firearms that are commonplace in rural households throughout America," the lawyer wrote. "They are not assault weapons — but guns that really are for hunting and home protection."

Dresch should be released and ordered to wear a GPS tether, Smith added.

Federal prosecutors are fighting the bond request and will file a response. The judge emphasized she wants the government to share any allegations involving assaultive conduct or breaking into the Capitol and whether Dresch was armed or used an object to attack anyone.

The bond battle is unfolding two months after Dresch was indicted. The charges include one felony — obstructing an official proceeding — and four misdemeanors: entering a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Dresch is one of six people from Michigan charged for their alleged roles in the insurrection.

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. 

On Jan. 7, a day after the storming of the Capitol, Karl Dresch posted, "We will be back if someone gives the word," U.S. Assistant Attorney Ted Greeley said during an earlier court hearing

Dresch also made Facebook posts in recent weeks that included an assurance that "antifa did not take the Capitol. That was patriots. ...We the people took back our house."

Later, Dresch posted "Mike Pence gave our country to the communist hoards."

Dresch also has fines from 2008 for a disturbing of peace violation and from 2011 for obstructing a police officer. 

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.

During that chase, which crossed into Michigan, Dresch was reported to reach speeds up to about 145 mph, prosecutors said. 

Friend Paul LaBine, mayor of nearby Hancock, also asked the judge to grant bond. 

"He has very strong political views concerning government, in particular the legislative and executive branches, and law enforcement," LaBine wrote. "Also, to be candid, he has occasionally exercised rather poor judgment.

"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."

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews