A tangled legal mess spilled across a Washington, D.C., courtroom on Monday as Department of Justice prosecutors agreed to drop several charges against a Capitol incursion defendant who later offered to plead guilty to one charge against him.
Lucas Denney of Mansfield, Texas, was arrested Dec. 13 — 11 months after the Jan. 6, 2021, incident — on charges that included “civil disorder, obstructing an official proceeding, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers with a dangerous weapon or resulting in bodily injury,” according to a Dec. 14 Justice Department news release.
That led Denney’s lawyers to file for his release earlier this month.
The Justice Department agreed to drop the charges with prosecutors admitting in a court filing that “the government failed to comply with the Speedy Trial Act in this case,” Reuters reported, calling it a “rare admission.”
However, on March 7, prosecutors got a grand jury to indict Denney on one count of assaulting or impeding officers, according to CBS.
On Monday, attorney William Shipley told Judge Randolph Moss that Denney was ready to plead guilty to that single count, according to CBS.
Prosecutors said they would abandon the initial charges against Denney.
“We appreciated the government conceding its error and acknowledging Mr. Denney’s right to plead guilty and will rely on Judge Moss’s judgment at sentencing,” Shipley said after the hearing, according to CBS.
Denney’s arraignment on the new charge is scheduled for Thursday, CBS reported.
During a March 7 hearing, at which the delay in filing charges was laid before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, the judge said he wanted to simply free Denney, but could not because of the indictment that had been secured that day, according to Politico.
“I am utterly at a loss. … I see a person’s rights that have been trampled,” said the judge, who noted he himself is a former federal prosecutor, according to Politico.
“You have been lost for months,” Faruqui told Denney during that hearing. “There’s no excuse to treat a human being like that. … There is no circumstance under which any person should be forgotten.”
Faruqui said the scope of the incursion prosecutions, which involved more than 750 defendants, was no reason for a person’s rights to be violated.
“The government has chosen to charge the largest case ever,” he said. “If they do not have the resources to do it, they ought not do that. … It feels like the government has bitten off more than it can chew here.”
“I don’t doubt that this is the largest case in the history of the Department of Justice,” Faruqui said later. “Ultimately, that just does not matter to me. … I hope to dear God that no one else has fallen through the cracks.”
During the March 7 hearing, Denney said he appreciated the judge’s concern for his rights.
“Thank you for taking this seriously and stuff like that,” Denney said.
Denney, a single dad, spoke about the impact of the case on his children.
“They’ve failed every grade in their school,” he said. “It’s been hard on them.”
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