Feds cite 'disturbing' past of California Jan. 6 defendant, fight his request to move trial




  • In US
  • 2022-12-01 14:00:00Z
  • By Sacramento Bee
 

Federal prosecutors are slamming efforts by a California man accused in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to have his charges dismissed, his past criminal history hidden from public view and to have his upcoming trial moved from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento.

They also are asking a judge to reject a request by Sean McHugh that he be released from custody in Washington pending trial because of claims he is being abused in jail and facing mental deterioration, noting that McHugh has twice been found to be a danger to the community and was on probation at the time of his alleged offenses Jan. 6, 2021.

"The defendant has a remarkably long and disturbing criminal history, which lists arrests for violent offenses such as home invasions, burglary, domestic violence, destruction of property, and rape offenses, as well as at least twelve convictions for offenses such as vandalism, theft, and statutory rape," prosecutors wrote in one of four motions filed this week in federal court in Washington.

"For example, in 2009, McHugh was arrested and charged with 'Rape: Force/Fear/Etc.' and 'Rape: Victim Drugged.' One year later, after an arrest for failure to appear, he plead to 'Sex with minor + or -3 years' and 'Contribute to Delinquency of a Minor.'

"The defendant also has at least three convictions for driving under the influence on his record, including a sentence of 180 days in jail that was issued in December 2018. Moreover, many of McHugh's offenses occurred while he was on probation and being supervised, including the instant offense.

"Prior court-ordered conditions have failed to protect the community from McHugh and have failed to dissuade him from committing further crimes."

McHugh, a 35-year-old construction worker from Auburn, has rejected a plea bargain offered by prosecutors and indicated he wants to go to trial on allegations that he assaulted police with bear spray and a metal sign and exhorted fellow rioters forward while using a bullhorn.

Trial currently is set for April in Washington federal court.

His lawyer has filed motions seeking dismissal of the indictment he faces, his release on bond, a move of the trial to Sacramento and a protective order that would seal a previously filed court document listing what prosecutors describe as McHugh's criminal history.

In the latter motion, McHugh attorney Joseph Allen argues that prosecutors have incorrectly cited "crimes of which the defendant has never been convicted, or in some cases, even charged," which has led to McHugh being targeted online "as a pedophile."

McHugh's previous federal defender filed arguments last year claiming prosecutors had McHugh's criminal history wrong, writing that "the government incorrectly stated that there are three prior rape offenses."

"There is one from 2010 where he was convicted of a misdemeanor and the other reference to it is related to that matter," his lawyer wrote then.

Prosecutors say there is no reason to seal previously filed records, writing in court documents filed Tuesday that "it makes little sense to restrict public access to a document that has been publicly available for well over a year."

They also noted that McHugh "has a very lengthy and complicated criminal history" that includes incomplete records about the outcome of some cases, and that McHugh's lawyer previously said that his first rape arrest did not result in a conviction and the second "resulted in a 2010 plea to charges of statutory rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor."

"The government takes seriously its obligation to be accurate and fulsome in its filings with this court and apologizes that the description of the defendant's offenses was inadvertently incorrect," prosecutors wrote in a filing Tuesday.

But, they added, "it would truly be an extraordinary step" to go back and seal a court record that has been on the public docket for more than a year.

They also are opposing McHugh's efforts to get his trial moved out of Washington, his second such request.

A judge previously rejected moving McHugh's trial to Michigan because of the argument that potential jurors from the District of Columbia overwhelming voted for Joe Biden for president in 2020.

In the latest bid to have the trial moved, McHugh's lawyer asks that it come to Sacramento because the alleged offenses "began and were concluded in Auburn."

Prosecutors oppose that, writing that McHugh "participated in a riot and attacked law enforcement officers" in Washington, D.C., and should face trial there.

They also oppose his effort to be released pending trial, noting that he has "at least three documented prior instances of failing to appear for court hearings," and that judges have found two times previously that he should not be released from custody because he poses a danger to the community.

"Indeed, it bears repeating that his violent offenses on January 6 were committed while on probation," prosecutors wrote. "While all of the January 6 rioters displayed a disregard for the rule of law, the defendant is one of the few who also have displayed long standing contempt for the authority of the criminal justice system."

The legal efforts come as the prosecutions in the Jan. 6 insurrection are heating up, with convictions Tuesday of two so-called Oath Keepers on charges of seditious conspiracy and the scheduled sentencing next week of Tommy Frederick Allan, another Sacramento-area defendant in the Jan. 6 riot who pleaded guilty in August to obstruction of an official proceeding.

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