(CN) — A Colorado judge on Tuesday dismissed contempt charges filed against the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for violating a court order by discussing the sealed criminal history of the person accused of killing five at an LGBT nightclub in Colorado Springs.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, is accused of killing five and injuring nearly two dozen others after allegedly opening fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19. This, however, was not Aldrich’s first brush with the law.
In 2021, Aldrich was charged with felony menacing and first-degree kidnapping after claiming to be building a bomb, desiring to become a mass shooter and declaring they would “go out in a blaze.”
Aldrich identifies as binary and uses the pronouns “they” and “them.”
The court sealed the criminal case as required by state law in August 2022 after the charges were dismissed. After Aldrich was arrested and charged with murdering five people during a drag show at Club Q in November 2022, their criminal history was leaked to the media. On Dec. 6, The Associated Press reported the documents were authenticated by a "law-enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the sealed case."
Fourth Judicial District Judge Robin Chittum ordered the case unsealed on Dec. 8, saying the public right to know outweighed Aldrich’s right to privacy.
Aldrich’s attorneys filed contempt charges against the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for speaking about the records in violation of the court order.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Chittum acknowledged the unusual nature of the case.
“Here we are in January 2023, the case has been unsealed, everything is public, everything is out there. I don’t know how to set up remedial sanctions for an order that is no longer in effect,” Chittum said. “There is nothing I can do to go back to Dec. 6 of 2022 and try to address this as a remedial type sanction.”
Importantly, the motion lacked enough evidence to hold the El Paso Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Bill Elder accountable for leaking the records.
“Does it appear to the court that there has been contempt? Yes. Somebody talked. But was it this respondent, the sheriff’s office, that committed contempt? Does it raise enough evidence where I can find this party committed contempt? I cannot find that it does,” Chittum said. “It amounts to a lot of speculation.”
Chittum said any member of law enforcement in the sheriff’s office, the Colorado Springs Police Department or even the state Bureau of Investigation could have looked at the leaked documents and verified they contained an arrest warrant.
County Attorney Nathan Whitney represented the sheriff’s office in court. Aldrich is represented by state public defender Joseph Archambault.
After the court unsealed Aldrich’s 2021 criminal file, the El Paso Sheriff’s Office released a statement detailing its decision not to pursue an extreme risk protection order against Aldrich after a mandatory protection order was issued to prevent them from legally obtaining firearms.
Aldrich faces more than 300 criminal charges including first-degree murder and hate crimes. They are scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
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