A Spokane man federal agents say believes himself to be the archangel of death will remain behind bars awaiting trial on federal charges of stalking.
Brent Russ, 33, appeared in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge John Rodgers for a bail hearing Tuesday afternoon. Russ watched in silence, scowling, as federal defender Andrea George and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rudy Verschoor argued for and against his pretrial release for more than an hour.
Russ was under investigation by federal agents for allegedly stalking a tribal police officer over the summer.
The officer reported to the FBI that Russ had left letters in her mailbox and a package at her doorstep filled with pamphlets about Azrael, the archangel of death, and his relationship with Uriel, the angel of God’s justice. A journal in Russ’ home indicated he believed the woman was Uriel and he Azrael, and that together they’d fight Lucifer and his disciples.
FBI agents also confiscated a cache of weapons from the home, including semi-automatic weapons modified to shoot more quickly and accurately, according to court documents.
Last week, Rodgers ordered a pretrial mental health evaluation. Though the results of that evaluation were not discussed Tuesday, both attorneys spent the greater part of the hearing addressing whether Russ was mentally stable enough to be released.
George asked that Russ be released to his family in Superior, Mont., summoning a number of his family members to the witness stand to testify on his behalf. They all told the court they believed Russ is sane and healthy and that they hadn’t seen any peculiar behavior from the man.
George also argued that an 18-page manifesto he wrote and sent to federal officials calling for members of Congress to be tried for treason was not an indication of any mental illness, adding that she felt the same way in light of the federal shutdown.
“I think the majority of this courtroom feels the same way,” George said to quiet laughter.
However, Verschoor said releasing Russ would pose an irresponsible risk to the community, citing mass shootings including the September shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. In recent cases, all the shooters suffered from mental problems, and though Russ’ weapons had been confiscated there was nothing to stop him from purchasing a weapon at a gun show and leading a violent attack, the prosecutor said.
Rodgers called the testimony “exhaustive” and ordered Russ to detention until his next court date.
Russ faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the stalking charge.
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