Club Q Shooter Plans to Take Plea Deal on Federal Charges

Anderson Aldrich faces 50 hate crime charges, 24 firearm violations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 16, 2024 4:59 PM CST
Updated Jan 16, 2024 8:39 PM CST
Club Q Shooter Pleads Not Guilty to Hate Crimes
In this image taken from video provided by the Colorado Judicial Branch, Anderson Lee Aldrich, left, appears in court, June 26, 2023.   (Colorado Judicial Branch via AP, File)
UPDATE Jan 16, 2024 8:39 PM CST

Club Q shooter Anderson Aldrich plans to plead guilty to new federal charges for hate crimes and firearm violations under an agreement that would allow the defendant to avoid the death penalty, according to court documents made public Tuesday. The 23-year-old made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to 50 hate crime charges and 24 firearm violations, the documents show. Aldrich would get multiple life sentences in addition to a 190-year sentence under the proposed agreement, which needs a judge's approval. The Jan. 9 plea agreement was unsealed by the court after Aldrich had pleaded not guilty in court during an initial appearance on Tuesday afternoon, the AP reports. The gun charges can carry a maximum penalty of death, according to the agreement.

Jan 16, 2024 4:59 PM CST

The shooter who killed five people and endangered the lives of over 40 others at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs appeared in federal court Tuesday to face hate crime and firearm charges. Anderson Aldrich, 23, pleaded not guilty to 50 hate charges and 24 firearm violations. The charges come after Aldrich pleaded guilty last June in state court to five counts of murder and 46 counts of attempted murder—one for each person at Club Q during the attack on Nov. 19, 2022. Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, also pleaded no contest to state charges for hate crimes under a plea agreement. The plea was an acknowledgment there was a good chance Aldrich would be convicted of those crimes without admitting guilt.

Jeff Aston, whose son Daniel Aston was shot and killed in the attack, listened remotely to the hearing and said he was shocked to hear Aldrich plead not guilty, the AP reports. "This was a hateful, stupid, heinous, and cowardly act," he said. "The closest thing to justice that I would like to see is that he has to suffer as much as the suffering he's caused for so many victims and family members." The federal charges follow an FBI investigation into the shooting that was confirmed after Aldrich's sentencing in state court. At the time, Colorado Springs area District Attorney Michael Allen said the threat of the death penalty in the federal system was a "big part of what motivated the defendant" to plead guilty to the state charges.

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In a series of telephone calls from jail, Aldrich told the AP they were on a "very large plethora of drugs" and abusing steroids at the time of the attack. When asked whether the attack was motivated by hate, Aldrich said that was "completely off base." The district attorney called those statements self-serving and characterized the assertion as ringing hollow. He said Aldrich's claim of being nonbinary is part of an effort to avoid hate crime charges, saying there was no evidence of Aldrich identifying as nonbinary before the shooting. During hearings in the state case, prosecutors said Aldrich administered a website that posted a "neo-Nazi white supremacist" shooting training video. A police detective also testified that online gaming friends said Aldrich expressed hatred for the police, LBGTQ+ people and minorities, and used racist and homophobic slurs.

(More Club Q shooting stories.)

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