Federal Judge Detains Man Charged With Burning Albany County GOP Office
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the detention of the man charged with breaking into and burning the Albany County Republican Party office because of the seriousness of the crime, the safety of the community, flight risk and other reasons.
Kellen Michael "Van Gogh" Sorber, 27, will remain in custody until his trial in federal court on one count of using fire to commit a felony, according to the minutes of the preliminary and detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin in Cheyenne.
If convicted, Sorber faces between five years and 20 years imprisonment.
Rankin agreed with the reasons offered by Wyoming U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen that Sorber is charged with a crime of violence punishable by at least 10 years of imprisonment; that he has not presented sufficient evidence to refute that assertion; that nothing can guarantee the safety of the community if he is released; that nothing will guarantee that he will appear in court for future hearings.
Other reasons for detaining him include the weight of the evidence against him; the lengthy prison term if he's convicted; his prior criminal history; his history of violence and or use of weapons; lack of stable employment an financial resources; and his evasion of law enforcement.
"Defendant took significant steps to avoid detection during the investigation in this matter," Rankin wrote.
The minutes of the hearing did not detail Sorber's criminal history or use of violence.
When Klaassen filed the charge on Oct. 23, Sorber went missing until he surrendered to the Laramie Police Department on Oct. 25, the same day the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a $5,000 reward for information as to his whereabouts.
The case began at 3:25 a.m. Sept. 6, at the GOP headquarters, 214 E. Ivinson Ave., when the Laramie Fire Department responded and extinguished it.
Investigators found two pieces of a cinderblock inside and a third piece on a trash container in the alley, a partially consumed cigarette, the burnt remains of a folding camping-style chair, and burnt remnants of a soft drink can box, according to the criminal complaint.
The ATF laboratory was able to determine a dominant DNA profile.
Surveillance video also was able to help investigators identify a person of interest -- Sorber.
They began watching Sorber, and one was able to contact him and surreptitiously obtain DNA from a beer can he had. That DNA evidence was consistent with that found on the cigarette and the three pieces of cinderblock.
An investigator determined that Sorber had his cell phone within one-tenth of a mile from a cell tower next to a cafe near the GOP headquarters.
On Oct. 16, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant and obtained DNA directly from Sorber.
On Oct. 22, a BATFE forensic biologist provided the agent with preliminary test results from the DNA obtained from Sorber was consistent from the DNA found on the cigarette, cinderblock and other evidence.