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Judge considering bond for U.P. man charged in U.S. Capitol riot

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

An Upper Peninsula man accused of partaking in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol will remain jailed while a federal judge considers whether to grant him bond.

Karl Dresch, 40, of Calumet is one of six people from Michigan charged in connection with the incident.

Dresch was arrested weeks later at his home and faces felony charges of obstructing an official proceeding, 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.

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

March:Michigan man bragged about storming U.S. Capitol during siege

His attorney, Jerry Ray Smith, has argued that there is no evidence Dresch assaulted anyone or destroyed property during the riot and no indication he forced his way into the Capitol.

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

"He wasn't there to interfere with Congress," Smith told Judge Amy Berman Jackson Monday. "He was there to support the former president. That doesn't necessarily mean he will engage in illegal conduct.

"He went there for a rally and things got out of hand and he wound up inside the building," Smith said. He argued Dresch should be given a GPS tether and a curfew and travel restrictions. 

Friends and supporters of Dresch, including Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean and Fred LaBine, mayor of Hancock, wrote letters to Jackson requesting that Dresch be released on bond while awaiting trial along with hundreds of others charged in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, The Detroit News reported last month.

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.

Jackson said at Monday's hearing she'd received about 14 such letters.

"The widespread nature of his support in the community is noted, and I will consider that," Jackson said. "But you wonder if they follow him on Facebook."

In April, in a 79-page motion, federal prosecutors argued Dresch should be denied bond, writing that "his prior encounters with law enforcement and disrespect for the rule of law demonstrate that no set of conditions would be sufficient to secure his appearance at a trial of this matter or ensure the safety of others."

Jennifer Blackwell, an assistant U.S. attorney, told Jackson geography is a worry for the government because Dresch lives in the Upper Peninsula.

"It is very close to the Canadian border, and it is very remote," Blackwell said. "That, in combination with what he's accused of, makes him a threat of flight."

"He's not going to flee to Canada," Smith said. "He lives where his family is, where he's been all his life. He has nowhere else to go."

Jackson said a bond decision comes down to four factors: the nature and circumstances of the alleged offense, the weight of the evidence, the history and circumstances of the suspect, and the danger posed to the community by that suspect.

"It's notable this defendant is not charged with breaking and entering or assaulting an officer," Jackson said. She said she will issue a written ruling at a later date.

Jackson noted that several letters portray Dresch as someone who got caught up in the emotions of the day and wound up inside the Capitol building.

"Is this something that happened to the defendant?" Jackson asked. "To know that, you have to look at what happened before," Jackson said, before reciting a number of Dresch's social media posts and text messages in the weeks before Jan. 6. 

In one text, on Jan. 3, Dresch claimed "I am prepared for chemical attacks and what not."

Later on Jan. 6, on Facebook, Dresch wrote: "Antifa did not take the Capitol that was patriots."

She then read a Jan. 7 social media post where Dresch said Mike Pence, then the Vice President, "gave our country to the communist hordes."

Authorities conducted two searches of Dresch's home, on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, netting four firearms and many rounds of ammunition.

Jackson asked prosecutors if there was any evidence Dresch was violent during the riot.

"The government is not aware of any evidence that Mr. Dresch broke any windows or committed any assaults in the Capitol that day," said Blackwell.

As for history and characteristics, Jackson noted that Dresch racked up felony convictions in two states after fleeing police from Wisconsin into Michigan. It started as an alleged drunk driving stop, and Dresch reached speeds of 145 miles per hour, she said.

"The government submits this behavior is not an aberration," Blackwell said. "It doesn't matter that was eight years ago. This is who Dresch is."

Smith argued Dresch's decision to flee police was "impulsive," but also irrelevant in whether he would show up to court eight years later, in 2021. 

"That's a different animal than willfully not appearing in court," Smith said.

Dresch has never missed a court date, to his knowledge, Smith said.

Jackson said she's concerned that if police were sent to enforce the tether, they might be put in harm's way.

Jackson did not say when her written opinion would be issued.

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