EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Accused El Paso mass shooter Patrick Wood Crusius made his initial appearance in federal court today, never speaking directly to the judge and waiving his right to a detention hearing.
Crusius, 21, walked into the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Miguel Angel Torres in shackles, wearing a blue blazer, gray pants, light-colored tie and sporting a buzzcut. He was flanked by his new counsel — which U.S. District Judge David Guadarrama barely appointed on Monday night — with two U.S. deputy marshals standing at all times behind the trio.
The man who allegedly walked into a Walmart in East-Central El Paso on Aug. 3 and shot 22 people dead with a European version of an AK-47 rifle appeared to be in a hurry to get done with Wednesday’s hearing. His attorney David Lane asked the magistrate to skip the reading of the 90-count federal indictment against Cruisus.
Torres said the purpose of Wednesday’s hearing was to inform Crusius of the charges against him. The magistrate agreed not to read the charges in the Feb. 7 indictment, but went on to read a summary of them, which fall into four categories: commiting a hate crime resulting in death; commission of a hate crime involving an attempt to kill; the use of a firearm to commit murder in relation to a crime of violence; and using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Some of those charges carry the death penalty.
The magistrate also informed Crusius that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a notice of aggravating factors regarding the charges and a notice of forfeiture of the rifle and ammunition used in the Walmart attack.
When Torres set Crusius’ detention hearing for 9 a.m. on Feb. 18, Lane said his client was “well aware of the charges” against him and that he would be filing a waiver of arraingment. Lane also said that his client wished to waive the detention hearing as well.
The magistrate said he would wait for written notice of the waiver of arraignment before vacating the detention hearing. Several hours later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas said the waiver had been filed and that Crusius had pleaded not guilty to all of the federal charges as well. The defendant previously pleaded not guilty to the state charges.
Wednesday’s procedure lasted less than 20 minutes and Crusius was spared the so-called “perp walk,” from the Federal Courthouse on Myrtle Avenue to the nearby El Paso County Jail a block away.
Outside the courthouse, Lane and fellow attorney Rebecca Hudsmith were besieged by reporters but declined to talk about the case.
“I’d rather not talk about the case at this time. … It’s just too early in the case,” Hudsmith said. Both her and Lane are experienced trial attorneys in death penalty cases.
The El Paso shooter allegedly posted an online manifesto on Aug. 3 bemoaning the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He allegedly drove more than 600 miles from Allen, Texas to El Paso, where 22 people were murdered and anther two dozen left injured in the Walmart attack.
Crusius also faces state capital murder charges. El Paso County prosecutors and the U.S. Attorney’s Office haven’t decided who will try the case first. Neither has said at this point if they will be seeking the death penalty against Crusius, who according to authorities told police after the shooting that he came to El Paso “to kill Mexicans.”
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