The teenager accused of ramming a U-Haul into a barrier outside the White House on Monday had his criminal charges quietly downgraded.
What is the background?
Sai Varshith Kandula, a 19-year-old from Missouri, was initially charged with five crimes after police say he drove a U-Haul box truck into barriers along Lafayette Square outside the White House.
Those charges included threatening to kill, kidnap, or inflict harm on a president, vice president, or family member; assault with a dangerous weapon; reckless operation of a motor vehicle; trespassing; and destruction of federal property.
Kandula allegedly told federal agents his goal was to “get to the White House, seize power, and be put in charge of the nation.” When officers asked how he would accomplish that, Kandula allegedly said he was willing to “kill the president” and “hurt anyone that would stand in my way.”
What happened now?
Kandula appeared in federal court on Wednesday, his first court appearance since the incident late Monday.
During the hearing in which prosecutors requested pretrial detention, a request that Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather granted, the charges against Kandula were read — but only for one crime.
Now, Kandula is only being charged with a single count of depredation of United States government property in excess of $1,000, according to CNN.
The crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison if he is convicted. However, because it is a “specific intent” crime, prosecutors would need to prove that Kandula destroyed or attempted to destroy government property while knowing that it is a crime.
It’s true that prosecutors could bring additional criminal charges as their case against Kandula progresses, but it’s not clear why Kandula’s charges were reduced.
Questions remain about Kandula’s motive. He is not a U.S. citizen, and it’s not clear why he would, according to investigators, praise Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Prosecutors did not specify Kandula’s country of origin. Federal agents searched his home on Tuesday.
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