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Elias Irizarry at the U.S Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

Elias Irizarry at the U.S Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. Attorney’s Office/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — A student at South Carolina’s Citadel military college who was charged in the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol will get to study for three weeks this summer in Estonia after all.

In May, a federal judge overseeing the case of rising Citadel junior Elias Irizarry refused to let him go on a Citadel study abroad program in Estonia this summer and raised security concerns about his request. Estonia is a NATO country on Russia’s border, and the trip includes visits to sensitive installations.

“He is facing federal charges in one of the most serious and consequential actions in this country over 100 years,” U.S. Judge Tanya Chutkan said of Irizarry in a May hearing. “I’m not going to allow him unsupervised to go off for three weeks to visit NATO cybersecurity sites.”

The Capitol riot was the equivalent of “an attempt to overthrow the government,” she said.

But two judges on a three-judge panel for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals disagreed Friday with Chutkan’s decision and ruled he could go.

In their reversal, Judges Karen Henderson and Gergory Katsas noted that Chutkan’s ruling “did not find that Irizarry was even a flight risk or dangerous. … The court instead based its ruling on global judgments about all defendants charged with offenses related to Jan. 6, rather than on an individualized assessment of safety concerns or flight risks presented by Irizarry himself. That was error.”

The two majority judges also noted that Irizarry, who has been out on bond since his arrest in early 2021, had so far complied with all conditions of the court and is an honors student at The Citadel.

Moreover, they wrote, prosecutors did not initially oppose Irizarry’s trip or propose any conditions be attached to his movements.

Irizarry has a school scholarship to help him pay for the trip, which takes place from July 11-31.

In a dissent, Judge Robert Wilkins wrote that instead of granting Irizarry’s request to travel abroad, the majority judges should have sent the case back to Chutkan for a determination on what conditions, if any, should be attached to Irizarry’s foreign travel.

Once Irizarry leaves the country, Wilkins noted, “the District Court, the Pretrial Services Agency, and U.S. law enforcement lose jurisdiction over him.”

Irizarry, who is charged with four misdemeanor charges, each of which carries up to a year in prison, could choose not to return to the United States and not have to worry about being extradited, Wilkins wrote. Extradition is possible only when charges have a punishment that exceeds a year in prison.

Irizarry is charged with one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; one count of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; one count of disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and one count of parading or demonstrating in a Capitol building.

He has pleaded not guilty and said he wants a trial. Chutkan has set a Jan. 3 trial date.

Irizarry traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, with a friend, Elliott Bishai, who faced the same charges as Irizarry.

Bishai agreed to plead guilty to one of the charges, and he will be sentenced July 29.

Court testimony and records said prosecutors say Bishai and Irizarry took photos and videos inside the Capitol and sat atop statues after entering with hundreds of others through a broken window. They are among some 840 people charged in what the Department of Justice has called the largest criminal investigation in its history.

Irizarry and Bishai attended Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill. In high school, both were members of the Marine Corps JROTC and the Gastonia, North Carolina, Civil Air Patrol unit.

Rock Hill Herald reporter Andrew Dys contributed to this story.

©2022 The State.

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