East Naples man arrested in connection to US Capitol riot contracts COVID-19 in jail
An East Naples man suspected of participating in the U.S. Capitol riot in January has contracted COVID-19 while awaiting trial in a Washington D.C. jail, according to court documents.
Christopher Worrell, 49, was arrested after FBI agents executed a search and arrest warrant at his home on March 12.
Worrell assaulted a line of law enforcement officers with pepper spray gel outside the U.S. Capitol building during the riot in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, according to the prosecution.
Although Worrell did not enter the U.S. Capitol building to the government’s knowledge, he lied to law enforcement officers about his conduct at the riot, refused to turn himself in for arrest where directed and issued a vague threat about a potential witness, according to prosecution.
Worrell was extradited from Southwest Florida and has been housed at the Central Detention Facility in Washington D.C. since April 13, according to court documents.
Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, denied bond for Worrell on March 19 and ruled he must remain in custody until his trial, according to court documents.
Attorneys representing Worrell filed an emergency motion on March 26 that stated Worrell has cancer and was at risk of complications from COVID-19 exposure while in custody.
At the time, Worrell was held at the Charlotte County Jail in Punta Gorda. The emergency motion requested the court reconsider the man’s pretrial detention so that he could be released from custody while awaiting trial.
Worrell was without access to his prescribed cancer medication and began developing lymphomas on his face, putting him at great risk for further complications and COVID-19 exposure while in jail in Charlotte County, according to the emergency motion from his attorneys.
“Mr. Worrell suffers from — and is currently undergoing treatment for — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and must be released so that he can continue receiving treatment; second, Mr. Worrell’s immune system has been compromised by the cancer, making him highly susceptible to COVID-19,” the emergency motion stated.
Prosecutors filed a memorandum in opposition to Worrell’s attorney’s emergency motion, which argued he should not be released while awaiting trial.
Worrell was not receiving his medication because his prescribing physician had not authorized the detention facility to dispense it, according to the prosecution’s memorandum.
The jail staff repeatedly tried to contact Worrell’s physician, but he did not respond, according to the prosecution’s memorandum.
“There is no reason the medication cannot be approved today (or could not have been approved any day the past two weeks) if the physician authorizes it,” the memorandum read.
The prosecution also downplayed Worrell’s risk of contracting COVID-19 while at the Charlotte County Jail in the memorandum filed on March 31.
At the time, two inmates at the Charlotte County Jail, who were housed in a different pod than Worrell and were quarantined, were diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the memorandum.
In response to the prosecution’s memorandum, Worrell’s attorneys filed a reply that continued to ask the court for his release pending trial due to his heightened risk of COVID-19 complications.
The fact that Worrell had not received the medical treatment he needed for his cancer proved the jail faculty was not capable of treating his condition, according to the filing from Worrell’s attorneys.
Worrell’s physician attempted to obtain the necessary authorization for the jail to provide Worrell with the medications, but the jail staff failed to provide him with adequate contact information, according to the filing.
“Dr. Rucker was only able to reach the Jail’s medical center and speak to the Jail’s medical staff after Mr. Worrell’s counsel and family members provided Dr. Rucker with a direct number the Jail failed to supply,” the filing reads.
In the filing, Worrell’s attorneys continued to point out his heightened risk of COVID-19 complications.
“For Mr. Worrell, who is at heightened risk of serious COVID-19 complications, by the time the Jail had identified an outbreak of cases within the facility, it would be too late,” the filing reads. “None of these risks would be any lower at the facility in Washington, D.C., where the Government has initiated a transfer of Mr. Worrell.”
The emergency motion asking for Worrell’s pretrial release was denied by the judge on April 6, according to court documents.
Worrell was to be arraigned in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on April 15, but his arraignment has been postponed indefinitely due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, according to a court document.
Worrell will have to quarantine in the D.C. jail for at least 14 days, according to the court document.
James Kelly, one of Worrell’s attorney’s, deferred to Worrell’s second attorney John Pierce when asked for comment. Pierce did not return requests for comment before publication of this story.
On Twitter, Pierce has voiced disagreement with restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, particularly in his home state of California.
“Every restriction lifted immediately. Masks off and churches open,” Pierce tweeted on Feb. 17.
According to photos from the prosecution that appear to show Worrell at the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, he didn't follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask. The photos were not challenged at a hearing where they were presented as evidence.