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Dresch pleads: Sentenced to six months for role in Jan. 6 riots

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo In this April 21, 2016, photo Judge Amy Berman Jackson attends at an awards breakfast for pro bono counsel at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Wednesday assailed the false claims of election fraud pushed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters as she sentenced a member of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to time served, saying the Michigan man “placed his trust in someone who repaid that trust by lying to him.”

WASHINGTON — A Calumet man was sentenced to six months — effectively time served — Wednesday in federal court for participating in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Karl Dresch, 41, pleaded guilty Wednesday to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a six-month misdemeanor. Four other charges, including a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding, were dismissed.

Dresch, who had been in custody in Washington since January, was given credit for time served. After being debriefed by investigators, which will happen Wednesday or Thursday, he will be free to leave.

Dresch had been appealing the revocation of his bond, which Judge Amy Berman Jackson upheld in June.

Dresch declined to speak during Wednesday’s sentencing.

Wednesday, Jackson said Dresch was not prosecuted for exercising his First Amendment rights, but for breaking the law.

“We’re not here today because he supported the former president,” she said. “Millions of people voted for him and did not heed his call to descend on the nation’s capital. He was arrested because he was an enthusiastic participant in an effort to subvert and undo the electoral process, came to D.C. and encouraged others to do the same — not to hear the outgoing president speak, but as he put it, to ‘stop the steal.'”

Jackson could not modify the sentence, but explained why she thought it was appropriate.

Dresch was not “simply swept along by events,” Jackson said. His social media posts before and on Jan. 6 were full of calls to fight what he considered a stolen election. He posted “stop the steal” as early as Dec. 16. The day after President Trump teased a Jan. 6 protest with “Things will be wild,” Dresch posted “7/4/1776 = 1/6/2021.”

Jan. 3, Dresch posted he was prepared for chemical attacks, and said “no excuses, no retreat, no surrender, take the street, take back our country.”

On Jan. 6, Dresch was among those who made their way past officers into the Capitol building while Congress was certifying the election won by President Joe Biden.

“He was one of the individuals who entered the closed building and the certification process was indeed interrupted,” Jackson said. “The members of Congress and the Vice President had to be spirited to safety or were forced to hide. That was the point of the trip: to disrupt the process.”

Dresch was in the Capitol for about 25 minutes, entering through a door on the Senate side before exiting through a window next to the door, which rioters were still entering through, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell. Social media photos showed Dresch posing next to a John C. Calhoun statue in the Crypt, under the Capitol rotunda.

His posts afterwards continued to boast about the protests (“we the people took back our house … and now those traitors Know who’s really in charge”). The boasting continued even after the scope and harm of the event became clear, Jackson said. A Jan. 7 post stated, “Give the word and we will be back even stronger.”

Later, Jackson said, he made a series of “increasingly threatening” messages addressing the people he believed tipped off the FBI.

“We believe that those commentaries and those captions, and that support for what happened on Jan. 6… would warrant incarceration at the higher end for this defendant,” based on the guidelines for the picketing charge, Blackwell said.

But Jackson also drew a distinction between Dresch’s inflammatory rhetoric before and after the event and his nonviolent actions in the Capitol building. He was a “big talker,” she said.

“He was respectful,” she said. “He didn’t break anything. He didn’t hurt anyone. And the sentence has to reflect that too.”

Jackson said Dresch’s previous record had been considered, including a 2014 conviction for a high-speed chase with police in Wisconsin and Michigan. She also factored in letters of support from the community, including from the late Sheriff Brian McLean. She invoked Dresch’s father, Steven Dresch, who had been a state representative.

“Maybe being online gets you agitated … maybe that’s where you show off,” she said. “Now you’re a man in your 40s with a teenage son. So the question is: which of those men do you want to be? I hope you spend some time thinking about how you can be a positive force in his life, the way your father was in yours.”

Dresch had called Trump “the only big shot I trust.” But though Dresch may have sincerely believed the election was “tainted,” Jackson said, Trump had repaid Dresch’s trust by lying to him. By the time of the Jan. 6 ruling, Trump’s accusations had already been refuted by election officials from both parties, and he had lost more than 60 court rulings, including some by Trump-appointed judges.

“Your vote doesn’t count for more than anyone else’s,” she said. “You don’t get to cancel them out and call for a war because you don’t like the results of the election. You called yourself and the others patriots? That’s not patriotism. Patriotism is loyalty to the country, loyalty to the Constitution, not loyalty to a single head of state. That’s the tyranny they rejected on July 4, 1776.”

Under the terms of the sentence, Dresch must also pay $500 restitution toward the total damage to the U.S. Capitol incurred on Jan. 6. More than $1 million in damage was recorded.

Dresch also agreed to be interviewed by law enforcement officials regarding the events of Jan. 6. The interview will take place today or Thursday, before Dresch returns to Michigan, Jackson said. Dresch must also make his phone and social media accounts available to authorities.

The other Copper Country resident charged in connection with the riots, Jeremy Sorvisto of Hancock, is facing four misdemeanor counts. His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3.

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