Anderson Aldrich: Club Q shooter’s non-binary claim won't save them from hate crime charges, experts say
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is facing five counts of murder along with five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO: The Club Q shooting suspect's gender identity will not stop the state from bringing in hate crime charges against them, legal experts have claimed.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, who apparently identifies as non-binary, is facing preliminary charges, including five counts of murder along with five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury. The suspect, 22, is accused of killing five people and injuring at least 18 others after they stormed into Club Q just before midnight on Saturday, November 19, and sprayed bullets into the crowd with an AR-15-style rifle. Them was taken down by army veteran Richard Fierro and reportedly sustained extensive wounds around their head and neck, as revealed in mugshot pictures.
The motive behind the shooting in the LGBT+ club is yet to be established, but authorities said Alrich is facing possible murder and hate crime charges. And despite the defense not categorically stating anything about using the suspect’s gender identity during the trial, legal experts told Insider that the move to include pronouns in Tuesday’s court filing was a “very strategic move aimed at building sympathy to ward off the chances of attracting additional charges." Aldrich’s attorneys reportedly wrote in the filing, “They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal fillings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich."
In new court filing, public defenders for the suspect in the mass shooting at a Colorado gay club that left 5 people dead say that their client is non-binary and that "they use they/them pronouns." The lawyers refer to their client as Mx. Anderson Aldrich. pic.twitter.com/dPaUpiFXKN— Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (@NickAtNews) November 23, 2022
Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers and a former federal prosecutor, told Insider that the suspect's gender identity is "not relevant" in the proceedings. "Obviously the defense will want to get it in, but it’s not a defense," he said. Meanwhile, Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice at California State University, San Bernardino, told the outlet, "It’s certainly something that the defense would try to use, but it’s not in and of itself a bar from hate crime charges depending on what the other evidence is."
This is the booking photograph of the Shooting at Club Q suspect. pic.twitter.com/uA7lvU6S27— Colorado Springs Police Department (@CSPDPIO) November 23, 2022
The experts noted that members of a marginalized group are legally capable of committing hate crimes against members of their own group. "The notion that because someone might belong to a group does not mean that some ... dispute revolving around that group membership or issue would negate hate crime charges," Levin added. That said, the court has ordered that Aldrich be held in custody without bail.
As noted by Insider, prosecuting hate crimes in Colorado became easier following legislation last year. Prosecutors previously had to prove that a suspect's intent was driven entirely by hate -- a difficult task considering the futile nature of "getting inside someone's head," Rahmani said. This forced prosecutors to rely on circumstantial evidence. In 2021, however, Colorado lawmakers amended the state's hate crime statutes so that prosecutors would only have to prove that hate or bias was a "partial" motivation in the crime, thus opening the door for more charges and convictions. "That's obviously important because there may be differing reasons why someone would want to kill someone else," Rahmani told the outlet. "If you're a prosecutor, you really want to enforce these laws when you can. They send a message," he insisted, adding, "Your job is to protect minority groups like this."