January 6: Focus on Jeff Merkley’s Office and Missing Laptop

Two days ago, I noted that discovery correspondence in the case of Long Island CPA Justin McAuliffe suggests he may know something about what happened to Jeff Merkley’s laptop, which was stolen during the riot. Merkley described the damage rioters had done to his office in this video.

In a letter describing the discovery provided to McAuliffe, DOJ included a picture of Merkley’s stolen laptop, among other items.

As I noted, McAuliffe has not been charged with theft or damage at all. He remains charged under his original complaint with just trespassing.

In the last two days, there have been several developments in the investigation of Merkley’s missing laptop.

First, on May 4, the government arrested a guy named Gary Edwards.

His arrest affidavit includes a picture of him in what the wall hangings, among other things, make clear is Merkley’s office.

Most pictures in his arrest affidavit (including this one) show Edwards using his phone. I have speculated in the past that DOJ is prioritizing the arrests of MAGA tourists — those otherwise charged with just misdemeanor trespassing — for evidence they may have on their cell phones, and Edwards may be such an example.

Also in the last few days, GWU made the April 30 arrest of Oliver Sarko public. His arrest affidavit describes that he entered Merkley’s office. The picture included shows that he was filming as he walked out.

Like Edwards, Sarko was arrested solely for trespassing, in another arrest that may serve to obtain key evidence about what happened in Merkley’s office.

More interesting still, the government moved to revoke the bail of Brandon Fellows. Fellows is the guy that McAuliffe’s arrest affidavit shows sitting next to McAuliffe at a table in Merkley’s office (Fellows is the guy with the fake beard; his own arrest affidavit includes a screen cap with Fellows at the table that doesn’t show McAuliffe).

Fellows’ arrest affidavit (unlike McAuliffe’s) notes that Merkley’s laptop was stolen, but it doesn’t charge him for the theft.

On January 6, 2021, a live stream video on the DLive platform was broadcasted to the public from user “Baked Alaska” and a portion was later posted on Twitter. In the video, several people were observed in an office that appeared to be within the Capitol. The video showed a person who appeared to be FELLOWS, sitting at a table with his feet propped up on a table, as shown in the still shot below. The chairs, table, drapes, and wall art appeared to be consistent with those in the office posted by Senator Merkley. The conference room in which FELLOWS is present appears to be Senate room S140, the private “hideaway” office of Senator Merkley within the U.S. Capitol. The artwork visible on the walls of the conference room in the video is also visible on a video that Senator Merkley posted to Twitter on January 6, 2021, at 11:36pm, documenting some of the damage to his office, as described above. At this time, there is no evidence that FELLOWS was involved in any of the theft, damage, or destruction – other than being a part of the group that occupied the office for some period of time.

According to the government’s motion to revoke bail, since the time Fellows has been out on bail, he has committed a range of small release violations, along with a more significant one: petty larceny.

The PSA’s May 5, 2021 report cites numerous violations to support the request to remove the defendant from their supervision. First, the report relayed two instances, on April 8, 2021, and May 1, 2021, in which the defendant failed to comply with his curfew 9:00 p.m. curfew. On both occasions, PSA had to contact the defendant, who gave excuses for his violations (Doc. 23 at 3-4). On the latter occasion, the defendant told the PSA officer that he had left a message that he was running late, however there was no record of such a message being left. (Id. At 5). Second, the report also alleges two violations of his failure to report to PSA as directed on April 9, and April 16, 2021 (Id. at 2). Third, the report indicates the defendant was given a ticket in New York for Petit Larceny (Misdemeanor), with an appearance date of May 12, 2021 (Id. at 3). As noted in the PSA report, defendant failed to report the arrest as required by his conditions of release. (Id.). After the defendant was arrested for the Petit Larceny he was issued an appearance ticket directing him to appear in Court for the offense. Similar to his initial arrest by the FBI in this matter, the defendant told the New York State police officer that he would meet the officer to be processed on March 8, 2021, but failed to show up. The defendant only turned himself in after the officer contacted him again on April 28th.

The larceny is just a misdemeanor. But Fellows’ arrest affidavit makes it clear the FBI thinks he might have stolen Merkley’s laptop (curiously, he’s one of the rare January 6 defendants for whom the government got a prospective location warrant, as well as a PRTT order to find out who he’d been talking with, though the former may have been because he was dicking around with self-reporting). And this motion to revoke bail suggests that while out on release under suspicion that he stole a laptop, he took something else, albeit far more minor.

Given that there are upwards of 300 people out on bail for charges related to January 6, I would imagine that Fellows is nowhere near the only one to have violated his release conditions (John Sullivan is the only one I can think of who was actually publicly reported for it).

But at a time when the government seems to be focusing closely on who stole Merkley’s laptop, they’ve decided it’s time to detain Fellows pending trial.

Update: After I posted this, GWU’s Seamus Hughes reminded me that Sarko’s arrest affidavit also included a reference to Merkley’s office. Thanks to him for the reminder.

Update: Because Judge Trevor McFadden held the hearing to consider bail revocation in person, the call-in line got bolloxed and as a result none of the press were able to hear McFadden’s reasons why he didn’t revoke Fellows’ bail, but he did not. He did, however, place him in home detention.

14 replies
  1. Pablo in the Gazebo says:

    Fellows is a local buy. At his Jan19th court appearance all of the local print and television media described him the same way, smirking like a chimp.

    • P J Evans says:

      Sounds like he’s sure he’s going to get away with something big. He needs to be disabused of that notion, although it may be too late for him to learn anything to improve his behavior.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        He probably thinks Trump is really president and after all the cockroaches have been arrested by the U.S. military that he’ll be pardoned. “I think I’ll call that ground. I wonder if it will be my friend?”

        • Rugger9 says:

          One wonders if the whale became part of the menu at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe…

  2. Eureka says:

    In the photo of Edwards in Merkley’s office which you reproduce above, that looks like Fellows sitting in the same chair as Fellows (with his “disguise”) is shown doing in Fellows’ Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint (photo described above but not reproduced).

    I may have missed it but I don’t see the gov noting any times for the various photos of persons in Merkley’s office.

    This includes the photo of Philadelphia Proud Boy president Zach Rehl in Merkley’s office (in the Government’s Motion for Revocation of Release Order and for Pretrial Detention re Rehl). That photo, originally appearing in the New Yorker with a whole bunch of folks visible, is cropped to show only Rehl (fragments of another) and parts of two of the maps. There is no textual reference to “Merkley” in that document AFAIK. And the PB Leadership indictment only mentions Rehl’s Capitol entry time of 2:53 PM, via the same west door as Biggs initially had entered (para 67) — nothing on his presence in Merkley’s office as I recall, though it was well-known at the time of the indictment.

    While this may be a case of “small world”, it’s noteworthy that Edwards is from metro Philly (Bucks County, where Rehl/local PBs have held events). Recall, too, that per Parler/ProPublica video Rehl was with another Philly PB outside the Capitol as they summoned someone forward — “you guys wanna go in” at 2:47 PM. Who knows what of Edwards’ wife’s FB statements are true, but she says Edwards went in after Babbitt was shot (that was ca. 2:44pm per wiki).

    [I’m not suggesting they were working together; there are alternate explanations beyond that and coincidence such as contingents/parties clustered proximately outside, loosely if not ‘conspiratorially’ together. Maybe folks entered or moved to do so upon seeing familiar faces do the same. Etc. But if people know _of_ each other that may influence what they have to offer, too.]

    • Rayne says:

      Like that will show up in the APA’s DSM-5.

      On the other hand, perhaps we should start a movement toward classifying Foxitosis/Foxitis/Foxmania as a mental disorder allowing professionals to focus on diagnosis and treatment for 30-45% of the American adult public.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        I like Foxoplasmosis myself. (Implies an infectious cause. “Foxitis” would mean inflammation of the Fox, and “Foxmania” sounds like a dance craze.)

        As long as Charles Manson’s followers remain in prison, I don’t see any of these as viable defenses, including “Trump made me do it.”

      • P J Evans says:

        If they’re going to claim that, then it should be reasonable for judges to impose mental-health treatment as [at least] part of the sentence.

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