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Feds admit mistake left accused Capitol rioter in jail without charges for weeks

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Rozzoni wrote in a court filing on Monday that “there was nothing intentional or nefarious about the delay.”

WASHINGTON (CN) — Federal prosecutors on Monday admitted that their mistake left an accused Capitol rioter behind bars for weeks without being formally charged, and they agree that a judge should dismiss the recently filed indictment against him, so long as they can refile the charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Rozzoni wrote in an atypical court filing that prosecutors violated the Speedy Trial Act by failing to obtain a grand jury indictment against Lucas Denney within the statutory time limit.

Rozzoni however, insists that, “there was nothing intentional or nefarious about the delay.”

“It was an isolated incident, unlikely to happen again, and the time frame — while undoubtedly regrettable — is nevertheless not significantly egregious to warrant dismissal with prejudice,” she wrote in the 12-page filing.

According to court documents, Denney was arrested in Mansfield, Texas, on Dec. 13, 2021, on a criminal complaint alleging he swung a metal pole at an officer and threw projectiles at police during the riot. 

He appeared in a Texas federal court on Dec. 14 and a judge ordered his removal to face charges in Washington on Dec. 17. Court records show he was transferred from Val Verde Detention Center in Del Rio, Texas, to Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, on Jan. 31. 

Court staff, prosecutors and Denney’s attorney, John Pierce, corresponded via email for weeks about scheduling Denney’s initial appearance at a D.C. court.

But as time passed without any action, Pierce eventually filed an emergency motion on March 2 for his client’s release, arguing there was no preliminary hearing within 14 days of his initial appearance in Texas on Dec. 14.

And on March 5, Pierce filed two more emergency motions, one for Denney’s release and another to dismiss the case, arguing the government failed to file an indictment against him within the required 30-day time period.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui denied Denney’s requests for release during a hearing last Monday because on the same day, prosecutors obtained a single-count grand jury indictment charging him for assaulting a police officer with a metal pole during the riot.

In the government's response to the second set of emergency motions, Rozzoni claims they missed the Feb. 22 deadline to file an indictment because the “government’s counsel mistakenly believed” the time limit to file would be calculated based on Denney’s first appearance in a D.C. court.

“To be sure, the government failed to comply with the Speedy Trial Act in this case,” she wrote. “But there is no evidence of bad faith, a pattern of neglect, or something more than an isolated incident that resulted from a number of unfortunate factors.”

The unfortunate factors cited by the government include the time miscalculation, a misunderstanding over a waiver of the Speedy Trial Act and “difficulty and confusion” between the parties over scheduling Denney’s initial appearance in D.C.

Prosecutors urged the court to deny the motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, arguing that the defendant’s “offense is serious, the error was unintentional and the delay has not prejudiced Denney.”

He is facing conspiracy, assault and obstruction charges, which the government argues are “the most serious offenses” — other than seditious conspiracy — charged in connection with the Capitol attack.

If prosecutors get their way, another indictment against Denney could be obtained. But if the case is dismissed with prejudice, they might not be able to bring the same charge or allegations against him.

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