Louisville student activist and writer Quintez Brown pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges accusing him of shooting at a candidate for mayor in order to intimidate him from campaigning.
Brown is facing two charges in federal court, including interfering with a constitutional right and using a gun in the commission of a violent crime. Those are seperate from the attempted murder and wanton endangerment charges he’s facing in state court.
Louisville police say Brown walked into Democrat Craig Greenberg’s campaign office on Feb. 14 and fired multiple shots at the mayoral candidate while standing in the doorway. They say Brown was carrying two 9 mm handguns and ammunition when he was picked up by officers less than a mile from the scene of the shooting.
Local attorney Patrick Renn is representing Brown along with high-profile Louisville defense lawyer Rob Eggert. Renn told reporters after Friday’s hearing that they are asking for the federal charges to be dismissed, saying the arrest was unlawful because Brown was on home incarceration.
“In this case here, the federal government, acting through its agents, came into his home, snatched him while he was in his pajamas, and took him out of the house in violation, in my view, of the [local] District Court,” he said.
Renn further argued the arrest was unlawful because federal agents did not get a judge to sign an order before the arrest, known as a writ of habeas corpus.
Brown appeared in person for his arraignment at the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse downtown wearing a dark green jumpsuit. His parents, along with other family members and friends, sat in the gallery.
Some of Brown’s family members were seen crying and his father slumped over as Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Gregory read the charges.
Brown only spoke to answer, “Yes, sir,” when the judge asked him if he understood his rights and the charges against him.
His lawyers said in court Friday that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office subpoenaed a number of people who knew Brown and required them to testify before a grand jury. That group decided to indict him. Prosecutors also admitted they had documents related to a psychological evaluation of Brown.
The 22-year-old is expected to be back in court next Friday, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Colin Lindsay will decide whether he should continue to be held at a federal detention facility in Grayson County. Before then, Renn and Eggert asked prosecutors to turn over any evidence they presented to the grand jury related to Brown having a mental illness before the next hearing.
Brown’s lawyers have argued since his arrest in February that he has mental and emotional issues, and he would not get the services he needs in jail. Renn said they plan to make a similar argument at the detention hearing next week.
“Mr. Brown appeared in two different state courts,” he said. “In each of those instances the judges in those courts found he was suffering from mental illness and that his being locked up and incarcerated was going to be a detriment to his physical and mental well-being.”
A Jefferson County District Court judge previously released Brown from house arrest for a mental health evaluation. Renn said it is “frustrating” that Brown will sit in a cell until the hearing, but he later said Brown is getting his medication and being allowed to meet with a therapist over the phone.
Speaking to the press following the hearing, Renn called the federal prosecution “politically and racially motivated.” He pointed to comments made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deriding a local bail fund for posting Brown’s bail, as well as a recent television ad released by Greenberg focused on the shooting.
The Greenberg campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Renn also noted the U.S. Department of Justice has not brought charges against the police officer who killed Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, but rushed to arrest “a Black man accused of shooting at a white mayoral candidate.”
Political organizer Chanelle Helm echoed Renn’s comments outside the courthouse. Helm is an activist with Black Lives Matter Louisville and co-founder of the Louisville Community Bail Fund, which paid Brown’s $100,000 bail.
“I think we’re really understanding the system is designed to work,” Helm told reporters. “We’ve seen the intrusion of federal elected officials into this situation. We’ve seen local officials amplify some very demeaning words against Quintez.”
Helm, who worked with Brown during the 2020 racial justice protests, said the former University of Louisville student “did not look well” during his court appearance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not commented on the case outside of releasing the indictment.