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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Iraq War veteran denied competency hearing on Capitol riot charges

Substantial footage of the the Jan. 6 insurrection captured the Utah man violently assaulting police officers. Since his arrest, Landon Copeland has screamed obscenities at a federal judge and threatened his pretrial services officer.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge denied a competency hearing Thursday for a two-time Iraq veteran whose criminal history of illegal weapons, drugs, theft and arson predates his turn in the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Landon Copeland, 33, was arrested and charged after an acquaintance of his in southern Utah identified Copeland and Copeland's girlfriend in footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“There is not currently cause to believe that Mr. Copeland is mentally incompetent,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather said in court Friday, a week after the government argued in a memorandum that Copeland should be denied pretrial release both because he is charged with a crime of violence and because he threatened his pretrial services officer.

Copeland has denied that he ever entered the Capitol building with fellow rioters but admitted in an interview with the FBI "to fighting with police officers" there. He also identified himself in photos of the mob, several of which are included in the criminal complaint and show him in a tussle officers and in one case hurling a fence at them.

After Copeland surrendered to authorities in Utah and was conditionally released, a virtual hearing in Washington was scheduled for the former U.S. Army sergeant and six others charged in connection to the riot. Copeland was scheduled to go last at this May 6 proceeding but repeatedly interrupted the other defendants' hearings.

“I used to be a free man until you locked me up,” Copeland yelled at Judge Meriweather. “You’re going to give me what the fuck I want! You’re going to do what the fuck I tell you to do!”

The court eventually muted and later disconnected Copeland from the hearing, at which point Copeland drove to the office of his pretrial services officer, banged his head against the glass, yelled that the government was out to get him, and told the officer, “If I was on the other side of this glass, I would eat you from the inside out because I am starving.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Kohler in Utah quickly issued a warrant for Copeland’s arrest. In another hearing on May 12, Copeland explained that the May 6 hearing outburst was “intentional.” Two days later, in an interview from his cell at the Washington County Jail, he tried to clarify that what he said to the pretrial services officer was not a threat. 

“I can give you the verbatim quote,” Copeland told the reporter. “It was, ‘I would eat your flesh for nutrients. I don’t think you know what I am.’”

The criminal complaint against Landon Copeland shows him posing in front of the Washington Monument on Jan. 6 after traveling to the U.S. Capitol where he participated in the insurrection. (Image via Courthouse News)

In other interviews, Copeland has expressed no remorse for his actions at the riot, where he took a riot shield from an officer, pushed another rioter into a police line, and threw a metal police barricade at officers.

“I would do it all again,” Copeland repeatedly told reporters. 

At the Friday hearing, Copeland’s defense requested to seal information about his mental status. Attorneys for the government told the judge that there’s no point, however, as Copeland given numerous media interviews discussing it at length. 

“I don’t know why they should be sealed. Conduct is not an appropriate thing to seal,” Justice Department attorney Michael Romano said. “The cat is well out of the bag.” 

Copeland’s defense attorneys chose not to contest his detention but requested that he remain in the Utah jail, at least until his detention hearing. 

“I don’t want to trigger him being transferred,” said Ryan Stout, Copeland’s defense attorney in Utah. Meriweather granted a request to allow both Stout and Heather Shaner, Copeland’ defense attorney in Washington, to remain on the case, given the circumstances. 

Meriweather will issue her written opinion denying a competency evaluation on Monday. 

Copeland’s detention hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7. 

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter

Categories / Criminal, Politics

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