A federal grand jury indicted a man accused of filing a phony lawsuit against former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Jonathan Lee Riches is charged with making false statements in U.S. District Court in Arizona, according to a July 11 indictment filed in federal court in Tucson. Riches is accused of posing as Jared Lee Loughner, who is serving a life sentence in prison for shooting and killing six people on Tucson’s northwest side in January 2011. Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was among 13 people wounded.
On March 18, 2016, Riches “knowingly and willfully made, used, and filed a false and fraudulent writing and document falsely and fraudulently posing as Jared Lee Loughner,” according to the indictment.
In the phony lawsuit, Riches sought $25 million in punitive damages from Giffords for emotional and psychological distress, according to the indictment. While posing as Loughner, Riches said Loughner was illegally incarcerated based on false statements by Giffords.
Riches filed numerous phony lawsuits involving celebrities while serving a federal prison sentence for wire fraud, according to media reports.
Riches was released from federal prison in May 2016, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.
The federal court clerk in Arizona and Riches’ court-appointed defense attorney, Saul Huerta of Tucson, confirmed the authenticity of the July 11 indictment. Huerta would not make any other comment.
In a court filing, Huerta said Riches does not live in Arizona and asked for Riches’ arraignment, which is scheduled for July 27 in federal court in Tucson, to be postponed until Aug. 17.