January 6: The Trespasser Testimonials

The other day, when accepting her first misdemeanor January 6 plea, Chief Judge Beryl Howell expressed dismay that Jack Griffith was getting such a lenient plea for taking part in a violent mob that terrorized Congress and the Vice President. In response, his attorney Heather Shaner and the prosecutor Mitra Jafary-Hariri defended the deal, in part, by talking about how cooperative Griffith was. In response, Judge Howell distinguished simple cooperation from a cooperation deal, which requires extended work with prosecutors to indict others.

Howell is not wrong.

But this post has convinced me of something I already suspected: DOJ is using even misdemeanor plea deals to build their larger case. As I noted, the statement of offense to which Eliel Rosa pled guilty described that before he entered the Upper West Terrace door at 2:35PM and passed cops who had not put up much resistance to rioters, he had witnessed “people with megaphones shouting, ‘Go, Go, Go'” and smelled pepper spray which made it clear to him that “law enforcement was present and in front of the advancing group.” This sworn allocution will make it harder for people like Ethan Nordean to claim that, when he entered the same door minutes later, he had no way of knowing that he was trespassing.

Reviewing a good percentage of the misdemeanor pleas so far, it seems most provide one or another kind of support (or both) for the larger case. Some of the defendants pled to details about their own participation that will support the violence of the day. In addition to Rosa (whose testimony will be detrimental to Nordean and others who are claiming because guards didn’t resist he wasn’t trespassing), Kevin Gallagher’s statement of offense will probably be useful in prosecuting Jason Buteau. Some of the other statements of offense describe defendants witnessing other assaults or destruction.

The other way misdemeanor pleas likely will help prosecutors is in validating the video they took during the riot or other testimony such that it will more easily be entered into evidence against other defendants. I’ve long believed that the FBI is focusing some of their arrests of trespassers on those it believes have useful video against more dangerous rioters, and that’s true even of the handful who have pled guilty already. For example, Andrew Bennett’s video must be among the video evidence shared with defendants who broke open the window through which Ashli Babbitt tried to enter. Dona Bissey and Anna Morgan-Lloyd between them took a picture that shows several rioters who stole a sign from Nancy Pelosi’s office (and the government seems very interested in Bissey’s pictures of rioters on the scaffolding). For defendants with useful video, the government needs to ensure the video they collected can be validated to be used against other rioters. In some statements of offense, then, trespassers end up describing taking video and even (sometimes) that they took selfies as part of that video.

Trespassers witness the violence

Bruce Ivey:

After the police line and metal barricades were breached, IVEY walked towards the Senate Wing Door, where he watched another rioter break through the window immediately adjacent to the Senate Wing Door using a riot shield.

Thomas and Lori Vinson:

After the rally, the defendants marched to the U.S. Capitol building, where they entered the first floor at around 2:18 p.m. Cell phone video recorded by the defendants shows broken glass and alarms blaring as they entered. They were present in a first-floor corridor barricaded by law enforcement officers at approximately 2:31 p.m.

Danielle Doyle:

Danielle Nicole Doyle entered the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, at approximately 2:20 p.m., by climbing through a broken window located next to the Senate Wing Door.

Edward Hemenway and Robert Bauer:

8. On January 6, 2021, after the “Stop the Steal” rally, Robert Bauer and Edward Hemenway, who are cousins, followed a crowd to the U.S. Capitol. As Bauer and Hemenway entered the U.S. Capitol grounds, Hemenway saw a green plastic sign that said, “Do Not Enter,” but continued anyway. As they walked toward the U.S. Capitol building, they saw officers in S.W.A.T.-style gear standing near the scaffolding outside the building. Bauer and Hemenway linked-up with a group walking toward a door into the building. They entered the U.S. Capitol building together with the group at around 2:10 p.m. E.S.T. They then made their way into the Crypt. As they entered the Crypt, Hemenway believed members of the crowd were fighting with police officers.

9. While inside the U.S. Capitol, Bauer and Hemenway chanted, “Stop the Steal!” Bauer also took pictures and videos, and chanted, “Our house! Our house!”

Derek Jancart and Erik Rau:

JANCART and RAU watched from the West Lawn while rioters broke through the police line and rushed up the stairs of the Capitol. RAU video-taped that moment, stating on the video, “We made it up to the Capitol. … We have the police surrounded! We have you surrounded!” In the background, rioters can be heard yelling, “get him!” and “traitors gonna hang!” When the rioters broke through the police line, RAU can be heard screaming, “Yeah! They just pushed through the guards!”

JANCART and RAU then entered the Capitol Building through the Senate Door. JANCART and RAU then traveled through the Crypt. After exiting the Crypt, JANCART and RAU took the stairwell south of the Crypt to the second floor of the Capitol and walked towards the Speaker’s conference room. RAU stepped inside of the Speaker’s conference room while JANCART stayed outside and took a photo.

JANCART posted a photo of the door to the Speaker’s conference room to Facebook with the caption, “We’re in.”

Jack Griffith:

Griffith attended the Stop the Steal rally and then walked to the U.S. Capitol. Griffith unlawfully entered the restricted Capitol grounds, arriving near the North West Scaffolding and Stairs at approximately 2:14 to 2:16 p.m. on January 6, 2021. Griffith spent time in the crowd by the inauguration stage on the west side of the U.S. Capitol building observing members of the crowd attacking law enforcement repeatedly as they tried to keep the crowd away from the building. Griffith then went up the northern set of stairs underneath the scaffolding to the north west terrace near the Senate wing of the building.

Griffith entered a door to the Capitol which had been broken open. Griffith entered the Capitol with his Co-Defendants Eric Chase Torrens and Matthew Bledsoe at approximately 2:18 p.m. The fourth Co-Defendant Blake Reed entered shortly behind Griffith, Torrens and Bledsoe. Griffith’s entrance is captured in surveillance footage and in a selfie-stye video that his Co-Defendant Matthew Bledsoe shared on social media. The selfie-style video shows them immediately outside of an exterior door of the Capitol. An alarm can be heard blaring in the background. Co-Defendant Torrens said, “We’re going in!” The camera then pans to Griffith who screamed in excitement.

Michael Curzio:

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., video surveillance captured Curzio walking inside the Capitol Visitors Center (“CVC”), which is part of the Capitol building. Curzio and others gathered in a CVC corridor at the end of which U.S. Capitol Police officers had formed a defensive line. The officers issued commands for the rioters to leave the building. When rioters refused their commands, the officers began arresting individuals who had unlawfully entered the building, including Curzio. Curzio admitted he refused to leave the premises after being ordered to do so.

Curzio was compliant following his arrest, and later cooperated with law enforcement by providing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) his swipe code so the FBI could search his phone.

Matthew Mazzocco:

During the time relevant to the above described events, the defendant entered the U.S. Capitol and walked around the building. The defendant entered and walked around at least one conference room type-area and walked through various hallways. While doing so, the defendant told others not to take or destroy anything, and that they were probably going to get in trouble for what they were doing.

Kevin Gallagher:

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., video surveillance captured Gallagher walking in the Capitol Visitors Center, which is part of the Capitol building. At one point, Gallagher appeared to admonish another rioter not to throw a chair.

The rioter in question is likely Jason Buteau, who threw a chair in CVC between 2:29 and 2:31, but the moment he actually threw the chair was not caught on camera.

Boyd Camper:

Camper subsequently admitted to law enforcement that he “picked the right hole” to get himself to a stairway area. He saw that the police lines had been broken, as well as persons getting tear gassed and pushing to get inside the building. Camper stated that he believed he was in the frontline of the situation, and that “in my mind, we were going to take the Capitol steps.” Camper also admitted that he went inside the U.S. Capitol building.

Eric Torrens

Torrens spent time in the crowd by the inauguration stage on the west side of the U.S. Capitol building observing members of the crowd throwing items at law enforcement.

Mark Simon

As Simon filmed the video he approached the doorway to the U.S. Capitol, law enforcement officers inside the U.S. Capitol could be seen attempting to remove individuals from the building. Broken glass windows could be observed on two of the doors of the U.S. Capitol, including one that was directly next to Mark Simon while he was taking the video.

Once Mark Simon was in the doorway of the U.S. Capitol building, he turned the camera on himself and said, “In the Capitol baby, yeah!” Shortly thereafter, Mark Simon turned the camera on himself again and said, “2021 Donald Trump!” A screenshot from the portion of the video in which Mark Simon turned the camera on himself is below, along with an image from the video provided to the FBI by a member of the public. A broken glass window is visible directly behind Mark Simon in the first image.

Then-Houston cop Tam Pham

The defendant walked over fences on the Capitol grounds that had been previously knocked over, and saw police officers as he approached the U.S. Capitol Building with a large crowd of people. He continued to walk past a broken or torn down fence, and he passed other barricades on his way to the U.S. Capitol Building

Anthony Sirica:

As SCIRICA approached the Capitol, he saw people on the steps and on the scaffolding outside of the Capitol. SCIRICA saw a large crowd in front of him, and he decided to push his way to the front to see what was happening. He watched as other individuals entered the Capitol. He decided that he want to see it for himself and see what was happening with his own eyes. He heard people yelling and shouting “U.S.A.” chants and “Stop the Steal.” He heard what he believed to be a window breaking. He also heard an alarm going off inside the Capitol. He decided to enter the Capitol any way.

SCIRICA entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. He entered through a Senate wing door at approximately 2:24 p.m.

 

While inside the Capitol, SCIRICA walked through the Rotunda at approximately 2:26 p.m., and he walked through Statuary Hall at approximately 2:27 p.m. He took photos and videos as he proceeded through the Capitol.

While inside the Capitol, SCIRICA saw law enforcement officers inside, but he continued to walk around inside the Capitol. He also saw a man push a law enforcement officer while inside the Capitol.

Trespassers validate their own video

Andrew Ryan Bennett:

9. On January 6, 2021, Bennett made his way to the Capitol grounds and began livestreaming video to his Facebook page from outside the building at approximately 1:00 p.m. Bennett eventually unlawfully entered the Capitol along with hundreds of other individuals. At approximately 2:17 p.m., 2:37 p.m., and 2:42 p.m., Bennett livestreamed three videos from inside the building to his Facebook page. During one point in one of those videos, Bennett admonished others not to be destructive inside the Capitol. At multiple points, Bennett turned the camera on himself and captured himself inside the building, wearing a hat with the letters “FAFO,” an abbreviation of a slogan popular among the Proud Boys, a far-right group. There is no evidence Bennett was violent or destructive on the grounds of or inside the Capitol.

10. On January 11, 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) obtained a search warrant for Bennett’s residence in Columbia, Maryland. During the execution of the warrant, the FBI recovered the hat bearing the “FAFO” slogan that Bennett wore inside the Capitol. Following the search, Bennett voluntarily interviewed with the FBI, and admitted that he unlawfully entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He also provided the unlock code of his cellphone to the FBI so FBI could search the device, and has been entirely cooperative with the government’s investigation since his arrest on January 26, 2021.

11. Upon further investigation, the FBI found while Bennett attempted to contact a Maryland chapter of the Proud Boys about becoming a member, it did not find evidence that Bennett is a member or associate of any organized chapter of the Proud Boys.

Dona Bissey:

11. After arriving at the Capitol and ascending the steps, the DEFENDANT participated in the protest and took photos of the other protestors, including those in or around the scaffolding on the western front of the building.

12. The DEFENDANT and Morgan-Lloyd then entered the Capitol building and walked through a hallway. While inside the Capitol building, the DEFENDANT appeared in a photo with Morgan-Lloyd and two other individuals, one of whom is holding a Trump campaign flag. The DEFENDANT later posted the photo on Facebook with the caption “Inside the Capitol Building.” The DEFENDANT also posted a picture of an elderly woman with a “Make America Great Again” hat and wrote “This is Our Warrior Linda. We stayed with her and her daughter Stacey all day. They are somewhat locals. When we Marched to Capitol she said “I’m going in” and she lead the way. We went in [] This photo taken at Capitol entry right before[.]” The Defendant also posted a screenshot of a Twitter post which stated “This is the First time the U.S. Capitol had been breached since it was attacked by the British in 1814” and wrote “We were inside for reals! Linda led the way!! She is a True Patriot and Warrior!!!”

13. On January 7, 2021, the DEFENDANT posted a photo on Facebook, tagging Morgan-Lloyd and another individual, and wrote “We are home. Thank You to ALL that messaged checking in and concerned. It was a day I’ll remember forever. I’m proud that I was a part of it! No Shame. BTW turn off the #FakeNews.”

14. On January 8, 2021, the DEFENDANT posted two photos from the western front of the Capitol building. The photo included images of protesters climbing the scaffolding and another other with a protestor holding a stolen and broken sign that read “Speaker of the House.” The DEFENDANT wrote on the post “This really happened! Anna Morgan-Lloyd took the photo.”

15. On January 11, 2021, the DEFENDANT posted a photo on Facebook which showed individuals walking down the steps of the Capitol building. The DEFENDANT wrote “On our way down” and tagged Morgan-Lloyd.

16. On February 24, 2021, the DEFENDANT was interviewed by law enforcement. The DEFENDANT admitted that she had entered the Capitol and remained for less than ten minutes. The DEFENDANT also admitted that she had a photo taken of herself within the building.

Anna Morgan-Lloyd:

On January 6, 2021, in response to a post by L.L.T.P, the DEFENDANT wrote, “I’m here. Best day ever. We stormed the capital building and me and Dona Bissey were in the first 50 people in.”

[snip]

The DEFENDANT also admitted that she used her phone to take photographs in and around the Capitol building and had a photograph taken of herself, Bissey, and two other individuals.

Valerie Ehrke:

At approximately 2:09 p.m. on January 6, 2021, the defendant entered the U.S. Capitol Building with a crowd. The defendant entered one of the hallways of the Capitol Building and took a video from the first-person perspective while she was there. She then uploaded that video to her Facebook page, with a caption reading, “We made it inside, right before they shoved us all out. I took off when I felt pepper spray in my throat! Lol.” A screengrab of that video is attached hereto:

Valerie Ehrke

Jordan Stotts:

11. At approximately 2:45 p.m., STOTTS entered the Capitol building through a door located to the left of the main entrance

12. Once inside the Capitol building, STOTTS walked to the Capitol Rotunda and stayed inside for approximately one hour.

13. While in the rotunda, STOTTS celebrated with other rioters and used his cell phone to take a video.

Robert Reeder:

10. On January 6, 2021, from the steps of the Capitol grounds, the DEFENDANT recorded a video in which he stated: “We’ve been getting tear gassed…thousands of people.” The DEFENDANT then appeared to chant: “Fight for Trump!”

11. As the DEFENDANT approached an open door of the Capitol, a high-pitched alarm can be heard in the background. Capitol Police Officers are seen standing along the wall in the entrance. At the threshold of the building, the DEFENDANT approached Capitol Police Officers and asked: “Is there anywhere where I can get water?” An officer responded: “We don’t have any water in here, sir. There’s some outside.” The DEFENDANT then walked past the Officers, opened an interior door, and proceeded into the Capitol building. From inside the Capitol, the DEFENDANT took numerous photos and videos from various rooms, hallways, and balconies.

12. Although the DEFENDANT briefly left the Capitol building, he then turned around and returned to it. At that time, the DEFENDANT recorded a video of himself chanting “USA!” with the crowd as he approaches the open doors to the Capitol building.

13. The DEFENDANT then recorded another video in which he appears to be within and near the Capitol rotunda near confrontations with Capitol Police Officers. The DEFENDANT recorded an assault on a Capitol Police Officer. The DEFENDANT seemingly told the Officer: “You need to retreat!”

14. After leaving the Capitol building, the DEFENDANT recorded a video from the Capitol grounds in which he stated: “I’m leaving now… I got tear gassed at least four times inside the Capitol…I saw the lady they say got shot, I walked right past her in a pool of blood. And it’s just…completely crazy in there.” The DEFENDANT also stated: “Just left the Capitol, I was one of the last people out. I was in there for over half an hour. I got gassed several times inside the Capitol, many times outside the Capitol. Got shot with pepper balls. It was fucking nuts. We had to do…ah… battle with the Police inside. It was crazy…absolutely insane.”

Jenny Cudd:

While inside of the U.S. Capitol building, Jennifer Ryan took numerous videos and photos from the Rotunda.

Michael Stepakoff:

The defendant can be seen on CCTV video entering the United States Capitol Building at approximately 3:00 PM on January 6, 2021 through a door marked “EXIT” on the interior of the door. While inside the U.S. Capitol Building, the defendant walked past a wooden structure that had been knocked to the ground. He can be seen taking approximately eight photographs using his cellular phone. The defendant exited the Capital Building approximately five minutes after he entered.

Reeder’s arrest affidavit suggests the exchange as he entered the Capitol took place around 2:40, so this may verify that the cops at the West Terrace Door who weren’t fighting protestors — raised in defense by a significant number of defendants — did instruct at least one to go outside.

Trespassers move in interesting ways

Jennifer Parks and Esther Schwemmer:

On January 6, 2021, after the “Stop the Steal” rally, Jennifer Parks and Esther Schwemmer, friends who traveled together from Kansas to Washington, D.C. to attend the rally, followed a crowd to the U.S. Capitol grounds. When they arrived on the Capitol’s grounds, they saw people running up to the doors of the Capitol and took pictures of themselves and others. They relocated to the east side of the Capitol and entered the building through an entry where the doors were broken and open. They went up a round staircase to the second floor and walked around for approximately 15 minutes. They took pictures inside the Capitol. They eventually left the Capitol when they were told to exit the building by a United States Capitol Police officer.

While I’m sure I’ve lost track of some of these misdemeanor guilty pleas, this post shows a good percentage of those who’ve pled already have offered testimony that in one way or another would be useful for further prosecutions. One of the only exceptions is Joshua and Jessica Bustle whose statement of offense largely focuses on their phones, video surveillance, and subsequent social media posts. Perhaps relatedly, in sentencing memos for the Bustles submitted last week, the government recommended three months of home confinement for Jessica (who called Mike Pence a traitor and called for a revolution after the riot) and one month of home confinement for Joshua.

The Government Screws Up Attempt to Distinguish between January 6 Insurrection and Anti-Kavanaugh Protests

The government is obviously getting fed up with some of Ethan Nordean’s legal challenges. I can’t blame them for being impatient with Nordean’s claims that, so long as cops at one of four barricades he passed on his way to insurrection weren’t knocked down, it means he had no way of knowing he wasn’t welcome.

But they fucked up, badly, in what would otherwise be an important argument to make. In his reply brief to his motion to dismiss his entire indictment (here’s the government’s response), Nordean made an argument that right wingers love to make, that the Kavanaugh protests were just like the insurrection, yet those protestors weren’t charged with the same felony charges that January 6 insurrectionists are being charged with.

About two years before the January 6 events, in October 2018, Congress held confirmation hearings for now Justice Kavanaugh. Of course, confirmation hearings are not ceremonial functions like the Electoral College vote count but are rather inquiries held pursuant to Congress’s investigatory power. Subpoenas are issued, sworn testimony is given. See, e.g., United States v. Cisneros, 26 F. Supp. 2d 24, 38 (D.D.C. 1998). As on January 6, Vice President Mike Pence was present and presiding over the confirmation vote.4 Hundreds of protestors broke through Capitol Police barricades.5 They burst through Capitol doors and “stormed” the Senate chamber. N.Y.Times, Oct. 6, 2018. There, they disrupted and delayed the Senate proceedings by screaming and lunging toward the Vice President and other people. As a report described the day, Saturday’s vote reflected that fury, with the Capitol Police dragging screaming demonstrators out of the gallery as Vice President Mike Pence, presiding in his role as president of the Senate, calmly tried to restore order. “This is a stain on American history!” one woman cried, as the vote wrapped up. “Do you understand that?” N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 2018. Here are some of the images of protestors who broke through Capitol Police barricades and entered Congress that day, about 26 months before January 6:

Roll Call, Oct. 6, 2018 (VP Pence presiding in Capitol Building)

NBC News, Oct. 6, 2018 (VP Pence presiding in Capitol Building)

Though they intentionally delayed the congressional proceedings, these protestors, numbering in the hundreds, were not charged with “obstruction of Congress” under § 1512(c)(2). Certainly, if the lack of case law supporting the government’s interpretation of “official proceeding,” the absence of any legislative history pointing towards that interpretation, and the DOJ’s own internal inconsistent position do nothing to provide “fair notice” to an “ordinary person” that such political protests constitute “obstruction of official proceedings,” the fact that hundreds of protestors were charged with no offense at all for conduct for which the indictment here charges Nordean does not provide that notice either. Moreover, the naked charging disparity between the episodes—legally similar, according to the government here—also implicates the vagueness doctrine’s concern for arbitrary and discriminatory law enforcement enabled by vague, shifting standards that allow “prosecutors and courts to make it up,” particularly in the context of the rights of free speech, assembly and petitioning of the government. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. at 1212 (Gorsuch, J., concurring); United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019) (Gorsuch, J.) (residual clause of § 924(c) unconstitutionally vague); Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015) (residual clause of Armed Career Criminal Act unconstitutionally vague).

4 Kavanaugh is sworn in after close confirmation vote in Senate, N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 2018, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/06/us/politics/brett-kavanaugh-supremecourt.html.

5 See, e.g., Kavanaugh protestors ignore Capitol barricades ahead of Saturday vote, Roll Call, Oct. 6, 2018, available at: https://www.rollcall.com/2018/10/06/kavanaugh-protesters-ignore[-]capitol-barricades-ahead-of-saturday-vote/.

[my italics]

Nordean is conflating two different things in an attempt to draw this parallel. There were the protestors who were in the actual hearing room, who briefly yelled and then were removed. And then there were protestors who broke through a barricade at the Capitol (there were also protestors who broke through a police line at the Supreme Court and knocked on the door). The “hundreds” of protestors Nodean mentions were watching from below and then were on the steps.

Protesters broke through Capitol Police barricades and rushed up the steps to the Capitol Rotunda Saturday afternoon amid large demonstrations ahead of a Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The metal barricades were erected Thursday to keep demonstrators on specific areas of the Capitol grounds.

[snip]

As each batch of arrestees walked down the stairs, the cheers rose from the hundreds assembled below on the east front stretching out to the street.

In an effort to conflate the two, Nordean invented things that weren’t in the NYT story he claimed to rely on, both that the people inside the hearing had “stormed” the Senate chamber and that those protestors were “lunging” at the Vice President.

As a chorus of women in the Senate’s public galleries repeatedly interrupted the proceedings with cries of “Shame!,” somber-looking senators voted 50 to 48 — almost entirely along party lines — to elevate Judge Kavanaugh. He was promptly sworn in by both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — the court’s longtime swing vote, whom he will replace — in a private ceremony.

[snip]

Republicans are now painting Democrats and their activist allies as angry mobs. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, delivered a speech on Saturday assailing what he called “mob rule,” while the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, told reporters that “the virtual mob that has assaulted all of us in this process has turned our base on fire.”

The bitter nomination fight, coming in the midst of the #MeToo movement, also unfolded at the volatile intersection of gender and politics. It energized survivors of sexual assault, hundreds of whom have descended on Capitol Hill to confront Republican senators in recent weeks.

[snip]

Saturday’s vote reflected that fury, with the Capitol Police dragging screaming demonstrators out of the gallery as Vice President Mike Pence, presiding in his role as president of the Senate, calmly tried to restore order. “This is a stain on American history!” one woman cried, as the vote wrapped up. “Do you understand that?”

The government makes some of these points in their surreply, notably pointing out that the protestors who actually interrupted the hearings were all legally present in the public gallery, and had all gone through security to get there.

Defendant’s attempts to manufacture a parallel between the criminal activity during confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh and the events of January 6 should remain on the Internet—they do not fare well when included in a legal brief. Among the distortions of fact and law in his brief, Defendant claims that on October 6, 2018, protestors “burst through Capitol doors and ‘stormed’ the Senate chamber” during confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh. That is not accurate.2 The confirmation hearings were public, and the gallery of the Senate Chamber was open to the public on the day of the vote to confirm Justice Kavanaugh. See C-SPAN, Final Confirmation Vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Oct. 6, 2018 available at https://www.cspan.org/video/?452583-11/final-confirmation-vote-judge-brett-kavanaugh. Indeed, Vice President Pence twice reminded the “guests” in the Gallery that expressions of approval or disapproval were not permitted. Id. Protestors who demonstrated inside the Senate Chamber on October 6 did so after lawfully accessing the building and being subjected to security screening. 3 See, e.g., Public seating at Kavanaugh hearing cut in half, then restored again, PBS News Hour, Sept. 5, 2018, available at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/public-seating-at-kavanaugh[-]hearing-cut-in-half. No serious parallel can be drawn between the two events.4

[snip]

3 Those entering the earlier confirmation hearings reportedly had to pass through multiple identification checks. Members of the public were required to “first wait in line outside the building to go through an initial screening” before being “escorted in small groups to a holding area outside the committee room itself.”

The government twice mocked Nordean for using the wrong pictures in his brief.

While Defendant can claim to have “images of protestors who broke through Capitol Police barricades and entered Congress” on October 6, 2018 (Id. at *14), the Court will immediately recognize that one of the images depicts protestors on the steps of the Supreme Court.

[snip]

2 In his Reply, Defendant included two pictures of protestors who had “stormed” the Capitol. The pictures alone underscore the frivolous nature of Defendant’s argument. But there is another problem—the protestors in the second photograph were on the steps of the Supreme Court.

It would be a great gotcha if it were true.

It’s not. While there were protestors that day at the Supreme Court, and while the story Nordean mistitles and doesn’t include a URL for does describe protestors storming past a police line on the Supreme Court stairs, the picture Nordean used was, indeed, from the Capitol steps.

Here’s what the view of those same steps looked like after mobsters occupied them on January 6 (from the NYT documentary on it); by this point several windows were already broken:

I can think of no instance where rioters who only occupied those East steps were even arrested (there were several people who occupied the more violent West Terrace who were arrested, most commonly in association with a conspiracy or assault charge), suggesting the equivalent January 6 “protestors” were in fact treated more leniently than the protestors — some of whom were arrested — from the Kavanaugh protests. For example, Proud Boy Ricky Willden may never have entered the building from the East stairs, but he is accused of spraying cops with some toxin.

Here’s what the protest at the Supreme Court looked like (again, from the same NBC article), with the caption that makes this incidence of “storming” seem quaint by comparison:

It’s an unbelievably embarrassing error to make — to accuse Nordean of an error when in fact the government was in error, especially while suggesting that Judge Kelly would immediately recognize the Supreme Court. All the more so given that Joe Biggs’ re-entry through the East door is charged in this indictment. Getting this wrong is a testament that the government didn’t spend as much thought responding to Nordean’s comparison as they need to, not just to rebut his argument, but to reflect seriously on what the line between the civil disobedience of the Kavanaugh hearings and the terrorist attack of January 6 is such that the former resulted in over a hundred misdemeanor arrests onsite whereas the latter resulted in delayed arrests and felony charges.

There are clear differences, differences that go beyond the fact that the entire Capitol was shut down on January 6 whereas (as the government notes) protestors were legally present when they interrupted the Kavanaugh hearing. There’s no evidence any of the Kavanaugh protestors were armed, whether with baseball bats or bear spray or guns. There were no reports that protestors assaulted police, much less continued to march past them after causing injuries that required hospitalization. Contrary to Nordean’s invention, protestors did not lunge at Pence, and certainly didn’t threaten to assassinate him. In general, protestors were more compliant upon arrest than January 6 rioters (which is one of many reasons why the police succeeded in arresting them, whereas several charged January 6 defendants escaped or were forced to be released by other rioters). While protestors definitely criticized Kavanaugh’s alleged actions (and his own screaming), I’m not aware of any who threatened to injure much less assassinate him onsite. The threats against Senators — most notably, Susan Collins — were electoral, not physical.

This surreply brief provided the government an opportunity to make that case, make it soberly, and make it in such a way to respond to legitimate questions that right wingers who aren’t aware of these real differences might raise. The surreply also provided the government an opportunity to explain why Neil Gorsuch won’t find this to be a charging disparity when he eventually reviews this challenge — because he almost certainly will, which is obviously why Nordean put that nod to Gorsuch right there in his brief. How do you screw something like that up???

But the government didn’t do that. Instead, in rebutting Nordean, the government tried to dick-wag. And failed, badly.

I’m tired of some of Ethan Nordean’s bullshit arguments myself. But the legal question about what makes the insurrection bad enough to treat its masterminds as terrorists is a very serious one, one that needs to be treated with more care than the government did here.

Update: I’ve updated the comparison image for the East stairs and added the observation that few if any January 6 protestors who only climbed the East stairs were charged.

Update: emptywheel gets results.

The United States files this notice of correction along with the refiling of its Surreply to Defendant Nordean’s Motion to Dismiss. In its original filing, the United States asserted that Defendant Nordean had misidentified a photograph of the protests on October 6, 2018. Such assertion was incorrect and has been removed from page 1 and footnote 2 of the corrected filing.

What Eliel Rosa Saw at the Precise Moment Ethan Nordean Was Not Seeing Officers Open the Upper West Terrace Door

Yesterday, Eliel Rosa pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trespassing, even as his co-defendant, Jenny Cudd (the woman who famously got permission to fly on a pre-arranged trip to Mexico), continued to fight to get the obstruction count both were charged with dismissed as part of her own plea. (Rosa, who is a Brazilian citizen, faces a significant risk of deportation upon sentencing.)

Within an hour of that time, Ethan Nordean filed a motion to de-designate two 40-minute lengths of video designated highly sensitive so he can publicly release it. Nordean is trying to get video of something he didn’t witness personally released, showing that at 2:33PM on January 6, four minutes before Nordean entered the Upper West Terrace door at 2:37, two cops there opened the door and then, three minutes before he entered the door, one of those cops held the door open for an insurrectionist.

Second Upper West Terrace Video. This clip is 40 minutes in length, running from 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time on January 6 to 3:00 p.m. The video is from the same camera responsible for the First Upper West Terrace Video. Except, unlike in the shorter First Upper West Terrace Video, at 2:33 p.m., just a few minutes before Nordean enters the building, two police officers open the doors leading from the entry hallway into the Capitol Building. One officer holds the door open as the first protestor enters the building through the Upper West Terrace Door at 2:34 p.m. At 2:35 p.m., two minutes before the clip begins in the First Upper West Terrace Video, a police officer holds a conversation with a line of protestors. Then the officer permits them to enter the building.

Nordean also wants to get a video showing that, one minute before he entered through that door,  a cop propped the door open, and then, seven minutes after he went through the door, cops let a far bigger mob of people in.

[L]ess than a minute before Nordean enters the door, a police officer props the door open and moves a box out of the way of protestors entering the building. At 2:43 p.m., a time also outside the scope of the First Upper West Terrace Door Video, a group of officers large enough to block the narrow door to the Capitol Building confer with one another, as the line of protestors calmly waiting to enter grows outside. At 2:44:18 p.m., one of the officers appears to hear something in an earpiece. He then places his hand on the shoulder of a second officer who is speaking to the protestors and leans in to say something to him. The group of officers then permit more protestors to enter the building.

None of these things show up in the clips Nordean has been given, and none of these things would have been visible to Nordean in the minute during which he entered the building after assembling a violent mob to get to the door in the first place.

First Upper West Terrace Video. This clip is exactly one minute in length, running from 2:37 p.m. Eastern Time on January 6, to 2:38 p.m. Eastern Time. It depicts Nordean passing through a Capitol Building entryway hall. Two law enforcement officers stand aside as Nordean and others proceed into the building.

First Upper West Terrace Door Video. This clip is also exactly one minute in length, running from 2:37 p.m. Eastern Time on January 6, to 2:38 p.m. Eastern Time. However, this video is from a camera facing the door through which Nordean entered the Capitol Building before passing through the hall seen in the First Upper West Terrace Video. No law enforcement officers can be seen in this one-minute clip.

Don’t get me wrong: eventually, those 40-minute videos should come out, along with explanations of why those cops did what they did and whether they’re among the cops who were suspended for investigation after the insurrection. But the videos don’t help Nordean prove that, when he crossed into the Capitol from a terrace that was already well inside the restricted area that day, when he entered backed by thousands of men — many violent — that he had a key role in assembling, he knew what had happened four minutes earlier or what would happen seven minutes later. The only way he would have known what happened four minutes earlier and what would happen seven minutes later at the moment he himself crossed the threshold is if those cops were collaborators that he knew would open the door before the insurrection started.

If that’s the argument Nordean wants to make to get these videos released, by all means I’d love to hear it.

As I said, within an hour of the time that Nordean filing posted to PACER, Eliel Rosa was pleading guilty. He didn’t read his allocution during the plea, but it has been posted since. And it shows another coincidence in the lives of Ethan Nordean and Eliel Rosa. On January 6, Rosa was approaching the Capitol at the same time as Nordean was. And what he saw and heard is that people with bullhorns — like Nordean had — were shouting “Go, Go, Go,” as police set off pepper spray in an effort to hold them back. Rosa, who entered the Capitol just as it was opened (meaning the video Nordean wants would be helpful to Rosa and may be why Rosa got to plead to a misdemeanor) and two minutes before Nordean, knew that the police didn’t want him or the people yelling through the bullhorns to get people to move toward that door, because the cops were deploying pepper spray to get them to fall back.

10. On January 6, 2021, prior to 2:35 p.m., Eliel Rosa and Jenny Cudd approached the United States Capitol from the West.

11. In front of them, Mr. Rosa observed a large group of individuals shouting and Mr. Rosa heard people with megaphones shouting, “Go, Go, Go.” Mr. Rosa heard bangs and acknowledged the smell and presence of pepper spray that had been deployed. Because of these observations, he knew law enforcement was present and in front of the advancing group.

12. At approximately 2:35 p.m., Eliel Rosa and Jenny Cudd walked into the U.S. Capitol through the Upper West Terrace Door.

Mind you, Rosa is not the only misdemeanor plea that would include such evidence about what Nordean would have been seeing at the moment he was not seeing cops leave the door. By the time Nordean would go to trial there’d be a big handful of such statements of the offense, one after another January 6 defendant who knew, well before they entered the Capitol building, that they were not welcome in the building.

But even while Nordean’s alleged co-conspirator Zack Rehl seems to be getting chatty with prosecutors, Nordean is filing motions that would be most helpful if he wanted to prove he knew [hypothetically–I’m not arguing he did] there’d be collaborator cops waiting at that specific door of the Capitol, but otherwise would be useless to show what Nordean knew or saw when he crossed into the Capitol. Particularly as the government begins to collect sworn allocutions from people like Rosa making it clear what Nordean would have seen before he got to that door.


Update: In response to this motion, the government delivered the video in question to Judge Tim Kelly so he could see — the government contends — how Nordean misrepresented the video.

The Government’s Opposition to Defendant Nordean’s Motion for Removal of Sensitivity Designation (ECF 129) will be filed separately; however, the Government found it necessary to provide an immediate response to Defendant’s characterization of rioters’ entrance to the Capitol. The Government disputes Defendant Nordean’s characterization of the events surrounding Nordean’s unlawful entrance into the Capitol. Among other things, the surveillance footage does not “show[] a law enforcement officer authorizing Nordean’s entrance.” (ECF 113). Likewise, the footage does not show a police officer “prop[ping] the door open and mov[ing] a box out of the way of protestors entering the building.” (ECF 129) (emphasis added). The video depicts outnumbered Capitol Police officers being overrun by rioters unlawfully breaching a Capitol entrance.

And then Nordean’s attorneys responded, providing a new description of the video in question, one that adds a detail they didn’t include the first time: that the cops in question were already dealing with insurrectionists inside the building.

Perhaps most damning, consider the following clips, in tandem, in weighing the truth of the government’s claim to the public that the videos it will not release show “outnumbered Capitol Police officers being overrun by rioters unlawfully breaching a Capitol entrance.” ECF No. 103, p. 1. Nordean asks the Court to first review 2:33:18 p.m. in 126 USC 01 Upper West Terrace – 2021-01-06 _14h20min00s0000ms.asf; and then 2:33:42 p.m. in 0912 USCS 01 Upper West Terrace Door-2021-01-06_14h20min00s000ms.asf. In the first clip, police officers open an inner door to the Capitol, allowing protestors who are already in the building to enter a hallway leading to the Upper West Terrace Door. Seconds later, in the second clip, the protestors then open the Upper West Terrace Door to dozens or perhaps hundreds of protestors. With respect to the government’s claim of officers being “overrun,” and its claim that Nordean “falsely” represents that the videos show officers “authorizing” entry into the Capitol Building, Nordean asks the Court to view 2:37:28 p.m. in 126 USC 01 Upper West Terrace – 2021-01-06 _14h37min00s0000ms.asf, showing Nordean and others peacefully walking between multiple police officers who permit them to enter. It also asks the Court to view 2:44:00 p.m. to 2:44:30 p.m. in 0912 USCS 01 Upper West Terrace Door-2021-01-06_14h20min00s000ms.asf, in which police officers easily block a narrow entrance to the Capitol at the Upper West Terrace Door but then subsequently decide to permit protestors, who are not “overrunning” them, to enter. [my emphasis]

That description of the other rioters didn’t appear in their original description. It changes the meaning of it, because it offers other plausible explanations why cops at one post let rioters in as they were facing down rioters already in the building.

Again, I look forward to one day seeing videos showing what Ethan Nordean had no way of seeing before he entered the building. But thus far, Ethan Nordean has proven that Ethan Nordean provided an incomplete description of videos that depict what Ethan Nordean could not have seen happen just before he entered the Capitol.

It bears noting that Nordean’s larger argument, likening this dispute to one that was resolved in favor of John Anderson hours before Nordean’s own filing, resulting in the release of video that showed Anderson, is inapt and probably designed to impress gullible reporters or maybe complicit Congressmen like Paul Gosar. Nordean is pointing to the release of video that shows a defendant to argue for release of video that doesn’t show Nordean.

Update: Let me restate what Nordean is trying to argue.

By the time he got to the West Terrace door, he had passed at least three barricades. At each, he witnessed assaults, including — the first one — an assault that hospitalized a cop. In one of those cases, he reined in Christopher Quaglin, but Quaglin’s actions were still part of the collective action that allowed Nordean to even get to the West Terrace door. Nordean is trying to argue that, if at one of four barriers he passed to enter the Capitol, no cop was hospitalized as rioters passed, it’s proof he had no way of knowing he wasn’t welcome inside.

DOJ Unimpressed by Mo Brooks’ Kickass Conspiracy Defense

Last night, DOJ refused to certify that Mo Brooks’ actions laid out in a lawsuit by Eric Swalwell were done in the course of his employment as a Congressman. To understand why, and why Brooks may have given DOJ an easy way to prosecute him in conjunction with January 6, you have to look at the sworn declaration Brooks submitted in support of a claim that his call on Trump rally attendees to “kick ass” was part of his duty as a Congressperson.

Broadly, the Swalwell lawsuit accuses Brooks of conspiring with Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, and Rudy Giuliani to violate his civil rights by trying to prevent him from performing his official duties. One of the descriptions of the conspiracy is:

169. As described more fully in this Complaint, the Defendants, by force, intimidation, or threat, agreed and conspired among themselves and with others to prevent members of Congress, including the Plaintiff, and Vice President Mike Pence from counting the Electoral College Votes and certifying President Biden and Vice President Harris as the winners of the 2020 presidential election.

It alleges Brooks committed a number of overt acts, which include a series of Tweets that mirror and in one case anticipate the public claims the other alleged co-conspirators made, as well as his speech at the January 6 Trump rally where he incited listeners to “kick ass” to save the Republic.

Mo Brooks addressed the large crowd at the January 6 rally. He said “America is at risk unlike it has been in decades, and perhaps centuries.” He told the crowd to start “kicking ass,” and he spoke with reverence, at a purportedly peaceful demonstration, of how “our ancestors sacrificed their blood, sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives,” before shouting at the crowd “Are you willing to do the same?!” Brooks intended these words as a threat of violence or intimidation to block the certification vote from even occurring and/or to coerce members of Congress to disregard the results of the election.

In general, Brooks’ sworn declaration, submitted in support of a petition to certify that he was acting within the scope of his office as a Congressperson, claimed over and over that the actions he admits to (he claims all but one of the Tweets in question were sent by his staffers) were done,

pursuant to my duties and job as a United States Congressman concerning presidential election dispute resolution obligations imposed on Congress by the U.S. Constitution, Amendment 12 in particular, and the United States Code, 3 U.S.C. 15 in particular.

That includes, for example, when Brooks claims he,

drafted my January 6, 2021 Ellipse Speech in my office at the Rayburn House Office building on my Congressional Office computer. I also timed, reviewed and revised, and practiced my Ellipse Speech in my office at the Rayburn House Office Building.

Claiming such actions were part of his duties as a Congressperson is how Brooks responds to most of the allegations against him. One notable exception is when he claimed,

I only gave an Ellipse Speech because the White House asked me, in my capacity as a United States Congressman, to speak at the Ellipse Rally. But for the White House request, I would not have appeared at the Ellipse Rally.

The far more notable exception came when, presumably in an effort to disclaim intending to invite rally participants to “kick ass” on January 6, Brooks explains that the “kicking ass” was instead an effort to get Republicans to start focusing on the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Swalwell errs by splicing one sentence and omitting the preceding sentence in a two-sentence paragraph that emphasizes I am talking about “kicking ass” in the 2022 and 2024 ELECTIONSThe full paragraph states, in toto:

But lets be clear, regardless of today’s outcome, the 2022 and the 2024 elections are right around the corner, and America does not need and cannot stand, cannot tolerate any more weakling, cowering, wimpy Republican Congressmen and Senators who covet the power and the prestige the swamp has to offer, while groveling at the feet and the knees of the special interest group masters. As such, today is important in another way, today is the day American patriots start by taking down names and kicking ass.

My intent in uttering these words was to encourage Ellipse Rally attendees to put the 2020 elections behind them (and, in particular, the preceding day’s two GOP Senator losses in Georgia) and to start focusing on the 2022 and 2024 elections.

“As such” is the key phrase in the second sentence because it emphasizes that the paragraph’s second sentence is in the context of the paragraph’s first sentence’s 2022 and 2024 election cycles (that began November 4, 2020).

Consisted with this is the middle part of the paragraph’s second sentence, which states, “taking down names”. Whose names are to be “taken down”? The names of those Senators and Congressmen who do not vote for honest and accurate elections after the House and Senate floor debates later in that afternoon and evening. Once we get and “take down” their names, our task is to “kick their ass” in the 2022 and 2024 election cycles. [emphasis original]

This claim is inconsistent with many of the other claims that Brooks makes. And claiming that he means to replace Senators and Congresspeople who don’t vote against the legal outcome of the election only defers the threats against those who don’t participate in an election scam.

But the most important part, for the purposes of Brooks’ efforts to dodge this lawsuit, is that he has just confessed, in a sworn declaration, to have been campaigning when he delivered the speech that he wrote using official resources.

That’s one of the points that Zoe Lofgren made, in her role as Chair of the Committee on House Administration, when providing a response from Congress in lieu of one from the House General Counsel. After noting that Members of Congress cannot, as part of their official duties, commit a crime, she then notes that members are also prohibited from using official resources for campaign purposes.

Conduct that is campaign or political in nature is also outside the scope of official duties and not permissible official activity. For example, regulations of the Committee on House Administration provide that a Member may use their official funds only for “official and representational expenses,” and “may not pay for campaign expenses” or “campaign-related political party expenses with such funds.”5

Similarly, the Committee on Ethics notes that, “Official resources of the House must, as a general rule, be used for the performance of official business of the House, and hence those resources may not be used for campaign or political purposes.”6 For purposes of this rule, “official resources” includes not only official funds, but “goods and services purchased with those funds,” “House buildings, and House rooms and offices,” “congressional office equipment,” “office supplies,” and “congressional staff time.”7 The limitations on the authorized use of official time and space for campaign or political purposes extends to activities such as “the drafting of campaign speeches, statements, press releases, or literature.”8 Moreover, the scope of campaign or political activities that may not be conducted with official resources is not limited to the Member’s own reelection campaign. As the Committee on Ethics explains:

Members and staff should be aware that the general prohibition against campaign or political use of official resources applies not only to any Member campaign for re-election, but rather to any campaign or political undertaking. Thus the prohibition applies to, for example, campaigns for the presidency, the U.S. Senate, or a state or local office, and it applies to such campaigns whether the Member is a candidate or is merely seeking to support or assist (or oppose) a candidate in such a campaign.9

In his motion, Representative Brooks represents to the court that he intended his January 6, 2021, speech to incite action by the thousands of attendees with respect to election activity. Representative Brooks states that he sought “to encourage Ellipse Rally attendees to put the 2020 elections behind them (and, in particular, the preceding day’s two Georgia GOP Senate losses) and to inspire listeners to start focusing on the 2022 and 2024 elections, which had already begun.”10 For example, Representative Brooks affirms that in his speech, he said, “Today is a time of choosing, and tomorrow is a time for fighting.” 11 According to Representative Brooks, the first half of that statement, “Today is a time of choosing,” is not a “call for violence,” but is instead a reference to “[w]hich Senators and Congressmen to support, and oppose, in future elections.”12 Further, he explains that the second half of that statement, “tomorrow is a time for fighting,” is a reference to “fighting” “[t]hose who don’t vote like citizens prefer … in future elections, as is emphasized later in the speech.”13

Similarly, Representative Brooks also declares that in his speech, he said, that “the 2022 and 2024 elections are right around the corner” and that “As such, today is important in another way, today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” 14 As he said “the 2022 and 2024 elections are right around the corner,” Representative Brooks withdrew a red cap that stated “FIRE PELOSI” from his coat, donned the cap, and wore it for the remainder of his speech.15 Representative Brooks says that, “The phrase, ‘As such’ emphasizes that the second sentence is in the context of the first sentence’s ‘2022 and 2024 elections’ time frame … and the desire to beat offending Republicans in those elections!”16 He asks and answers his own question about the timing: “When do citizens kick those Republican asses? As stated in the first sentence, in the ‘2022 and 2024 elections that are right around the corner.’”17 He later affirms that, “My ‘kicking ass’ comment referred to what patriotic Republicans needed to do in the 2022 and 2024 elections and had zero to do with the Capitol riot.”18

For Lofgren’s purpose, the important part is that Brooks has sworn under oath that the specific language that seemed to invite violence was instead campaign activity outside the scope of his official duties.

Essentially, in deflecting the allegation that his speech was an incitement to violence, Representative Brooks has sworn under oath to the court that his conduct was instead in furtherance of political campaigns. As noted, standards of conduct that apply to Members and precedents of the House are clear that campaign activity is outside the scope of official duties and not a permissible use of official resources.

She doesn’t say it, but Brooks’ declaration, including his confession that he wrote the speech in his office, is also a sworn declaration that he violated campaign finance laws by using his office for campaign activities.

The DOJ response to Brooks’ request for certification cites Lofgren’s letter while adopting a similar approach to it, one that would extend beyond Brooks’ actions to Trump himself. The entire rally, they say, was a campaign rally, and therefore outside the scope of Brooks’ employment as a Congressperson — or the scope of employment of any elected official.

The record indicates that the January 6 rally was an electioneering or campaign activity that Brooks would ordinarily be presumed to have undertaken in an unofficial capacity. Activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context—electioneering or campaign activities—are not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives. Like other elected officials, Members run for reelection themselves and routinely campaign for other political candidates. But they do so in their private, rather than official, capacities.

This understanding that the scope of federal office excludes campaign activity is broadly reflected in numerous authorities. This Court, for example, emphasized “the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection” in holding that House or Senate mailings aimed at that purpose are “unofficial communication[s].” Common Cause v. Bolger, 574 F. Supp. 672, 683 (D.D.C. 1982) (upholding statute that provided franking privileges for official communications but not unofficial communications).

The current House Ethics Manual confirms that the official business of Members of the House does not include seeking election or reelection for themselves or others. House resources generally cannot be used for campaign purposes, and Members’ staff may engage in campaign work only “on their own time and outside the congressional office.” House Ethics Manual, Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, 110th Cong., 2d Sess., at 121 (2008). For instance, Representatives cannot conduct campaign activities from House buildings or offices or use official letterhead or insignia, and congressional staff on official time should terminate interviews that focus on campaign issues. See id. at 127–29, 133. Of direct relevance here, a Member of Congress also cannot use official resources to engage in presidential campaigns: “[T]he general prohibition against campaign or political use of official resources applies not only to any Member campaign for re-election, but rather to any campaign or political undertaking,” and this “prohibition applies to, for example, campaigns for the Presidency.” Id. at 124; see Lofgren Letter 2.

First, the record indicates that Brooks’s conduct was undertaken as part of a campaign-type rally, and campaign activity is not “of the kind he is employed to perform,” or “within the authorized time and space limits” for a Member of Congress. Restatement §§ 228(1)(a), (b). Second, the Complaint alleges that Brooks engaged in a conspiracy and incited the attack on the Capitol on January 6. That alleged conduct plainly would not qualify as within the scope of employment for an officer or employee of the United States, because attacking one’s employer is different in kind from any authorized conduct and not “actuated . . . by a purpose to serve” the employer. Id. § 228(1)(c). Brooks does not argue otherwise. Instead, he denies the Complaint’s allegations of conspiracy and incitement. The Department does not address that issue here because the campaign-related nature of the rally independently warrants denial of certification, and because the Department is engaged in ongoing investigations into the events of January 6 more generally. But if the Court were to reject our argument that the campaign nature of the January 6 rally resolves the certification question, the Court should not certify that Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment unless it concludes that Brooks did not engage in the sort of conduct alleged in the Complaint. [my emphasis]

Brooks might object to DOJ’s determination that the entire rally was a campaign event; he claims the other parts of his speech were part of his duty as a Congressperson. But if pressed on that point, the inconsistencies within his own sworn declaration would either support the view that Trump’s actions also weren’t part of his official duties, or that he himself meant the “kick ass” comment to refer to events of the day and therefore did incite violence. That is, the inconsistencies in Brooks’ sworn declaration may corner him into statements that go against Trump’s interests as well.

Importantly, DOJ’s filing treats the question of whether Brooks committed a crime as a separate issue entirely, asking Judge Amit Mehta not to rule in Brooks’ favor without first analyzing Brooks’ conduct to determine if the conduct alleged in the complaint — which happens to be but which DOJ doesn’t spell out — is a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count, the same charge used against three different militias charged in January 6.

Once again, DOJ emphasizes that this language applies to any Federal employee.

Instead, he denies the Complaint’s allegations of conspiracy and incitement. The Department does not address that issue here because the campaign-related nature of the rally independently warrants denial of certification, and because the Department is engaged in ongoing investigations into the events of January 6 more generally. But if the Court were to reject our argument that the campaign nature of the January 6 rally resolves the certification question, the Court should not certify that Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment unless it concludes that Brooks did not engage in the sort of conduct alleged in the Complaint.

[snip]

Here, the Complaint alleges that Brooks conspired with the other Defendants and the “rioters who breached the Capitol on January 6” to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College votes. Compl. ¶ 12. To serve that end, the Complaint alleges that, among other things, the Defendants conspired amongst themselves and with others to “injure members of Congress . . . and Vice President Pence” in an effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 12, 171, 179. Such a conspiracy would clearly be outside the scope of the office of a Member of Congress: Inciting or conspiring to foment a violent attack on the United States Congress is not within the scope of employment of a Representative—or any federal employee— and thus is not the sort of conduct for which the United States is properly substituted as a defendant under the Westfall Act.

Brooks does not argue otherwise. Instead, he denies the Complaint’s allegations that he conspired to incite the attack on the Capitol. See Brooks Aff. 17–18.5 The Department of Justice does not address that issue here. The campaign or electioneering nature of Brooks’s participation in the January 6 rally independently warrants denial of certification, and the Department is engaged in ongoing investigations into the events of January 6 more broadly.6 But if the Court were to reject our argument that the campaign nature of the January 6 rally resolves the certification question, the Court should not certify that Brooks was acting within the scope of his employment unless it concludes that Brooks did not engage in the sort of conduct alleged in the Complaint. Cf. Osborn v. Haley, 549 U.S. 225, 252 (2007) (recognizing that scope-of-employment questions may overlap substantially with the merits of a tort claim).

6 As this Court is aware, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have for several months continued their investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the attack. This investigation is ongoing. More than 535 defendants have been arrested across the country and at least 165 defendants have been charged on counts ranging from destruction of government property to conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding. See Department of Justice Statement, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/six-monthsjanuary-6th-attack-capitol. [my emphasis]

Someone could write a book on how many important cases Judge Mehta has presided over in recent years. But he’s got a slew of January 6 defendants, including all the Oath Keeper conspirators. And so Mehta is not just aware that DOJ is conducting an ongoing investigation, he has also presided over four guilty pleas for conspiring to obstruct the vote count, close to (but charged under a different law) as the claim Swalwell made in his complaint.

So Mehta has already accepted that it is a crime to obstruct the vote count, four different times, with Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young, Mark Grods, and Caleb Berry. He’d have a hard time ruling that, if Swalwell’s allegations are true (as noted, Brooks contends that some of them are not, and they certainly don’t yet present enough proof to support a criminal prosecution), Brooks would be exempt from the same criminal conspiracy charges that the Oath Keepers are pleading guilty to.

DOJ’s declaration is not (just) an attempt to create space — by distinguishing campaign activities from official duties — between this and DOJ’s decision to substitute for Trump in the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit. It is an effort to preserve the principle that not just Congresspeople, but all Federal employees, may be charged and convicted of a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count, particularly for actions taken as part of campaign activities.

The Cellebrite Wars: Moxie’s Stunt and Freddie’s Phone

On April 21, the guy behind the Signal encrypted texting service, Moxie Marlinspike, wrote a post exposing vulnerabilities in the interface of Cellebrite, the cell phone extraction program that FBI relies on.

Given the number of opportunities present, we found that it’s possible to execute arbitrary code on a Cellebrite machine simply by including a specially formatted but otherwise innocuous file in any app on a device that is subsequently plugged into Cellebrite and scanned. There are virtually no limits on the code that can be executed.

For example, by including a specially formatted but otherwise innocuous file in an app on a device that is then scanned by Cellebrite, it’s possible to execute code that modifies not just the Cellebrite report being created in that scan, but also all previous and future generated Cellebrite reports from all previously scanned devices and all future scanned devices in any arbitrary way (inserting or removing text, email, photos, contacts, files, or any other data), with no detectable timestamp changes or checksum failures. This could even be done at random, and would seriously call the data integrity of Cellebrite’s reports into question.

After telling Cellebrite to fuck off for integrating Signal exploitation into their offerings in about four different ways, Moxie announced that some Signal installs going forward would have such aesthetic sabotage built in in the future.

In completely unrelated news, upcoming versions of Signal will be periodically fetching files to place in app storage. These files are never used for anything inside Signal and never interact with Signal software or data, but they look nice, and aesthetics are important in software. Files will only be returned for accounts that have been active installs for some time already, and only probabilistically in low percentages based on phone number sharding. We have a few different versions of files that we think are aesthetically pleasing, and will iterate through those slowly over time. There is no other significance to these files.

As a Signal user, I’m thrilled that Moxie is trying to make it harder for FBI to exploit my phone. As someone who’d like FBI to hold the January 6 insurrectionists accountable, this stunt couldn’t have happened at a worse time, when the FBI was in the process of trying to exploit the devices of over 500 defendants in a violent assault on democracy.

Which brings us to Freddie Klein, the former Trump State Department official with family ties to Argentine fascists who was arrested for assault in conjunction with the insurrection.

Freddie wants his phone (and dash cam) back. Freddie was arrested on March 3 and his phone — which was plugged into his car charger when he was arrested — was exploited on March 12. Freddie’s attorney Stanley Woodward first asked verbally for the phone, and on May 6, prosecutors said they’d be happy to return Freddie’s phone as soon as he stipulated that the exploitation of it happened via reliable methods.

Thereafter, on May 6, 2021, the government advised that, “we would be happy to release Mr. Klein’s phone as evidence in the case provided that Mr. Klein is willing to agree to the attached stipulation. This stipulation was subsequently revised following discussions with the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia, although that office has not approved or, to the undersigned’s knowledge, accepted the stipulation as drafted. The stipulation provides, inter alia, that Mr. Klein agree that: “[t]he [digital] Images [of Mr. Klein’s phone] are accurate duplicates of the Digital Media and were created using reliable methods” and “[t]he Images of the Digital Media and/or any other copies are ‘admissible [into evidence] to the same extent as the original,’ within the meaning of Federal Rule of Evidence 1003.”

So now Freddie is moving formally to get it back, because his defense team wants the ability to inspect it forensically.

The government, however, maintains that absent that stipulation, they can’t return the phone. Not only might they need it to introduce the evidence against Freddie, but it’s possible the phone will have evidence implicating some of the other 500+ defendants, and the government wouldn’t be able to call Freddie as a witness against them to attest to the accuracy of the Cellebrite report.

The government doesn’t describe what evidence it thinks Freddie might have implicating others. But they note that some of the evidence they want to use at trial against him includes him bragging about appearing in a video from the riot via a Signal text.

After the filter team completed its review, the prosecution team began its review of the non-privileged and search warrant responsive contents of the defendant’s phone via the Cellebrite extraction report and has identified relevant material that the United States intends to introduce as evidence at trial. The identified evidence thus far includes location information on January 6, 2021, as well as messages exchanged by the defendant via the Signal application (“app”) regarding his presence at the U.S. Capitol.

The government then goes on to explain that some of the evidence they want to use is not available via other means (say, by serving a warrant on Facebook). They’re talking about Signal, of course.

It is also important to note that some of the evidence that has been discovered in the defendant’s phone is not available to the government through other means. For example, the United States has identified text messages sent by the defendant through the Signal app, in which Klein identifies himself in a video at the Capitol. Notably, Signal is a “state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption” app that “keeps your conversations secure.” See Why Use Signal, https://signal.org/en/ (last visited Jul 26, 2021). Signal advertises that even they cannot read messages or listen to calls, “and no one else can either.” Id. As Signal itself says, “Signal doesn’t have access to your messages; your chat list; your groups; your contacts; your stickers; your profile name or avatar; or even the GIFs you search for.” See https://signal.org/bigbrother/centralcalifornia-grand-jury/ (last visited Jul 26, 2021). Indeed, Signal has specifically asserted that “the broad set of personal information that is typically easy to retrieve in other apps simply doesn’t exist on Signal’s servers.” Id. This includes address of the users, their correspondence, and the name associated with each account. Id. Indeed, according to Signal, the only information that it maintains is the timestamps for when each account was created and the date that each account last connected to the Signal service. Id. Thus, the messages sent by the defendant via the Signal app are only available to the government through the defendant’s phone and the Cellebrite extraction of that phone.

To be clear: the government is generally making defendants stipulate to the accuracy of forensic reports before returning any devices (though I wonder if they have done so with Stewart Rhodes, who reportedly shared his phone and already got it back). For example, the government refused to return Vitali Gossjankowski’s laptop, which has special software tied to his hearing impairment on it, without such a stipulation. So it’s not just Freddie’s use of Signal that has led them to refuse to return the phone.

Moreover, the concern about introducing evidence against others is real. A number of prosecutors’ recent investigative moves (both specific arrests and the way they’re wiring some plea deals to others) are best explained by the difficulty posed by a crime in which hundreds of the criminals, many of them misdemeanor defendants, have important evidence against others.

But this is the use case for which Moxie’s stunt presented the real concern: someone whose phone has evidence needed to rebut his claims that the videos showing him violently attacking the Capitol aren’t really him. And that’s before any special protections DOJ started taking after Moxie promised future sabotage in a tiny percentage of Signal installs.

Like All His Co-Conspirators, Donald Trump Would Be Charged for Obstruction, Not Incitement

Today is the day that DOJ has to inform Judge Amit Mehta whether or not Mo Brooks’ incitement of January 6 rioters is part of his job, which would require DOJ to substitute itself for Brooks in Eric Swalwell’s lawsuit. Commentators who appear not to have followed the court cases very closely suggest that if DOJ does substitute for Brooks, it’ll make it impossible to hold Trump accountable for his role in the riot.

Brooks argued in court papers that his statements came as Congress prepared to certify the election results and that he was acting in his role as a federal lawmaker, representing his constituents, that day.

Now, the Justice Department and the top lawyer for the U.S. House of Representatives are involved. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has directed them to say by Tuesday whether they consider Brooks’ statements to be part of his duties as a member of Congress, and whether the federal government should substitute itself as a defendant in the case.

“We hope DOJ will see Brooks’ appalling conduct on Jan. 6 for what it was and what he admitted it was, which was campaign activity performed at the request of Donald Trump, which inarguably is beyond the scope of his employment as a member of Congress,” said Philip Andonian, a lawyer who brought the case on behalf of Swalwell.

Andonian said there’s no way Brooks and Trump were acting in their capacity as federal officials, which would give them a legal shield under a law known as the Westfall Act. Instead, he said, they were engaged in campaign activity, which doesn’t deserve that kind of protection.

[snip]

[Protect Democracy’s Kristy Parker] said she’s worried that if the Justice Department endorses Brooks’ and Trump’s statements on Jan. 6 as within the scope of their federal employment, it could complicate the efforts of prosecutors to bring the rioters to justice.

“That is not going to have a good impact on the ongoing criminal cases when it comes to persuading judges that the people who stormed the Capitol should get hefty sentences when the people who inspired them to do it have been endorsed as acting within the scope of their official jobs,” Parker said.

This column lays out some of the legal complexities regarding Brooks, including that even if DOJ does substitute for Brooks, it likely still leaves him exposed to part of the lawsuit.

I say the people claiming that this decision will determine whether or not Trump can be held accountable seem not to be following the actual court cases. If they had, after all, they’d know that the crime for which key instigators are facing “hefty sentences” is obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct the vote count. They’d also know that every single conspiracy indictment thus far has the same objective — to stop, delay, or hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

They’d also know that the overt acts in these parallel conspiracy cases involve getting large numbers of people to DC — often by publicizing the event on social media — and then getting those people to occupy the Capitol.

That is, if people were following the court cases rather than uninformed commentators, they’d know that the 38 people charged with conspiracy and the at least four people cooperating against them (not to mention the almost 200 individuals charged individually with obstruction) all had the same goal as Trump — they wanted to prevent the vote certification. Those charged with a conspiracy also used some of the same overt acts that Trump did, making sure lots of bodies were there and making sure that those bodies were occupying the Capitol.

They also might know that, starting with the Three Percenter SoCal conspiracy, DOJ started charging people who threatened violence as part of their efforts to get more bodies to the Capitol.

The difference between the threats that Trump made against Mike Pence after Pence refused an unconstitutional request from him and the threats of execution that were included in Alan Hostetter’s posts in advance of the riot is that virtually all the people who occupied the Capitol on January 6 were aware of Trump’s threats and some took action to implement them.

The disorganized militia conspiracy (which will presumably be rolled out any day now) is significant because at least one of the men who will likely be charged in it, Nate DeGrave, said he was responding entirely to Trump’s exhortations. DOJ likely has video evidence of the effect that Trump’s attacks on Mike Pence had on those men as they walked from his speech to the Capitol. Those men fought with cops to open up a second front of the siege on the Capitol and then they fought with cops to get into the space where, Josiah Colt hoped and believed, Senators were still conducting the vote count. These men are charged with trying to intimidate government personnel like Mike Pence, something that Trump also did.

We already have evidence Trump shared the same goal as every person charged with conspiracy and evidence that Trump committed some of the very same overt acts as those charged. We even have evidence tying Trump’s own actions with physical violence committed with the goal of reaching Mike Pence to intimidate him.

We don’t, yet, have evidence that Trump agreed with any of the co-conspirators already charged. But we are within two degrees of having that, working through either Rudy Giuliani or Roger Stone, which would make Trump a co-conspirator with all the others.

I’m not saying DOJ will get that evidence. As I’ve said, a goodly number of people are going to have to agree to cooperate before DOJ will get there, though we have abundant reason to believe such agreements were made.

But unless this novel application of obstruction gets thrown out by the courts, then it remains ready-made to fit Trump right in among the other co-conspirators, just one violent mobster among all the others.

Even Billy Barr agreed that Presidents could be charged with obstruction. And if Trump is going to be held accountable for his actions on January 6, it will be via obstruction charges, not incitement.

Dinesh D’Souza and the GoPro: The Import of the Disorganized Militia Conspiracy Case at the Core of January 6

When I first wrote up my prediction that Ronnie Sandlin, Nate DeGrave, and Josiah Colt might be charged in what I called a “disorganized militia” conspiracy on April 26, I suggested that the government would likely try to use the gun that Colt brought into DC to get him to flip against the other two, who unlike Colt were also charged in key assaults allowing access to the Senate.

 I bet whatever proof the government obtained that Colt brought a gun into DC and bear spray into the Capitol is being used to coerce Colt to flip in the same way it was with Jon Schaffer;

On July 13, Colt pled guilty as part of a cooperation agreement with the government signed five days earlier. His statement of offense — which was only just released yesterday — emphasizes that he brought his Glock to the January 5 rally, a violation of DC’s strict weapons laws for which he wasn’t charged.

On the evening of January 5, 2021, after arriving in the District of Columbia, Colt, Sandlin, DeGrave, and a fourth individual attended a rally protesting the 2020 Presidential Election results, which they believed to be fraudulent. Colt brought his Glock pistol to the rally.

Colt was neither the first nor will he be the last against whom the government uses DC’s strict weapons laws to entice cooperation.

Because Colt is the first known cooperator not tied to the existing Oath Keeper conspiracy (and because DOJ seems to have withheld these documents for ten days), I want to look closely at what does — and does not — show up in Colt’s SOO.

Virtually all of the pre-planning described in Colt’s SOO — Sandlin’s December 23 call for people to join him in traveling to DC, their public and private discussions of arming themselves, Sandlin’s foreknowledge of where to go, the arms they brought to DC, their attendance at a rally on January 5, and their predictions of violence the morning of the insurrection — had already shown up in documents from these three defendants (Colt’s arrest affidavit, Sandlin’s arrest affidavit, DeGrave’s arrest affidavit, Colt’s Facebook search warrant, Sandlin’s detention memo, DeGrave’s detention memo).

Perhaps the most striking detail in this SOO from the day of the riot involves what doesn’t appear: There’s no mention of the brawl –involving Sandlin and DeGrave, but not Colt — as they and others fought with cops to open the East doors of the Capitol. Instead, there’s just a description that they were there.

They ultimately entered the Capitol building and made their way to the Rotunda and other areas.

There are, however, new details from how the men walked from the Trump rally to the Capitol and along the way (though the SOO does not say from where) learned that Mike Pence had not backed Trump’s effort to steal the election.

17. Colt, Sandlin, and DeGrave walked together from the Ellipse to the U.S. Capitol. All three wore and carried protective gear, including a gas mask, helmets, shin guards, and motorcycle jackets. He also carried medical supplies, water, a pocket knife, and a walkie talkie. Colt did not bring to the Capitol the gun he had transported to the D.C. area; he left it in their hotel room in Takoma Park, Maryland, just outside of D.C.

18. Throughout the day of January 6, 2021, Colt, Sandlin, and DeGrave monitored the certification proceedings. While marching to the Capitol, they learned that the Vice President had not intervened to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote. 19. When the trio arrived at the Capitol, Colt repeatedly yelled, “breach the building.”

20. When Colt, Sandlin, and DeGrave arrived at the Capitol Complex, Colt repeatedly yelled, “breach the building.”

And the SOO provides different versions of Colt’s exhortations to go to the Senate Chamber once they got into the Capitol (previous filings had described that surveillance video captured Colt repeatedly talking about getting to the Senate, but quoting him saying different things then appears here). In fact, in context, this SOO suggests that Colt remained fixated on the Senate even as Sandlin and DeGrave helped to open up a second front of the attack on the Capitol.

The three breached the Capitol’s exterior barricades and entered the Complex. On the way up the stairs on the exterior of the Capitol building, Colt shouted “we’re making it to the main room. The Senate room.” As they approached an exterior entrance to the Capitol, Colt heard the sound of glass shattering and an alarm sounding. They ultimately entered the Capitol building and made their way to the Rotunda and other areas. Colt stated numerous times, “let’s get to the Senate, bro,” adding “where they’re meeting.”

The SOO describes Colt witnessing — because he was trailing the other two — Sandlin and DeGrave fighting a second set of cops to get inside the Senate.

21. Once inside the Capitol building, Colt, Sandlin, and DeGrave, along with dozens of other rioters, eventually made their way to a hallway just outside the Senate Gallery, a balcony overlooking the Senate Chamber. Approximately twenty minutes prior, U.S. Senators engaged in the proceeding to count and certify the Electoral College vote had been evacuated. Several U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Officers, including USCP 1, tried to lock the doors to the Gallery to prevent the rioters from gaining access. Colt observed Sandlin and DeGrave try to shove their way past the officers to access the Gallery, and saw Sandlin punch USCP 1 in the back of his head. Sandlin and DeGrave eventually gained access to the Gallery, followed soon thereafter by Colt.

22. When Colt entered the Gallery, he saw that no member of Congress was inside, prompting him to yell, “it’s empty.” Colt climbed down to the Senate Chamber by hanging off the balcony and leaping onto the floor. He ran to the chair at the front of the Chamber, which is reserved for the Senate President, the Vice President of the United States.

Some of these details — particularly newly revealed comments quoting Colt — likely come from the GoPro that (per Sandlin’s bond memo) Colt was carrying until the moment he handed it to DeGrave so he could drop from the Senate balcony and sit in Pence’s chair.

Shortly thereafter, Sandlin, DeGrave, and Colt entered the now open doors and reached the upper balcony of the Senate Chamber, which members and staff of Congress and the Vice President had already evacuated. Colt handed the GoPro, which he had been carrying and using to record the riot, to DeGrave, as he prepared to jump down to the floor of the Senate Chamber.

The three got separated after this point, so it’s possible that DeGrave had the GoPro until they met up again, filming whatever it was that he and Sandlin got into later in the riot.

But we know that Colt ended up with the GoPro after they left DC, because DeGrave and Sandlin went to some lengths to try to get the video from Colt; Sandlin wanted it so he could share the video with Dinesh D’Souza and monetize it.

On January 9 and 10, DeGrave privately messaged with a third party about providing footage to produce a documentary. He told the third party to call him on wickr, and that it was “going to absolutely blow your mind what I will tell you.” DeGrave later stated that he would have to “talk my boy into it,” “go to Idaho to get [the footage],” and that it was “with his attorney.” The government understands that DeGrave was referring to footage of the insurrection within the possession of Colt, who lives in Idaho. On January 14, 2021, Sandlin discussed his “footage” with an associate, noting that he had “a meeting with Dinesh Desuza [sic] this week”11 and asking to “chat on signal.”

Given how much the men filmed from their trip to DC — showing DeGrave’s mace exploding in their van in a video taken on January 5 and showing Sandlin knowing the time of the riot and expecting violence in the video they made in TGIF the morning of January 6 — it seems likely the video shows other things, such as what they saw and whom they met at the January 5 rally the night before the insurrection.

In other words, it may show how Sandlin and DeGrave learned about the plans for the insurrection the next day, including not just that things would start at 1PM and to expect violence, but that there would be a second front from the East side, one Sandlin and DeGrave seemed focused on even as Colt emphasized the import of getting to the Senate.

Just before Colt pled guilty — as I was publicly suggesting that his plea would be a cooperation agreement — John Pierce filed his notice of appearance to represent DeGrave. So DeGrave — along with the lawyer purporting to represent 17 different January 6 defendants, many of whom have information that would be incriminating to Joe Biggs — will finally get his GoPro video.

As much as any other January 6 filing, this SOO describes how insurrectionists planned to intimidate “government personnel” who were part of the vote certification.

25. The defendant intended to affect the government by stopping or delaying the congressional proceeding and in fact did so. The defendant accomplished this by intimidating and coercing government personnel who were participating in or supporting the congressional proceeding.

That’s because Colt’s testimony will be key to showing that a bunch of otherwise unaffiliated guys who (by DeGrave’s own claims) were simply responding to Donald Trump’s exhortations engaged in violence in what seems to have been a premeditated plan to attack the Capitol from multiple directions, all in an attempt to intimidate “government personnel” like the Vice President.

“Darkened Plazas with Throngs of People:” The Government Debunks the Portland – January 6 Comparisons

The government just responded to January 6 defendant Garret Miller’s claim of selective prosecution. Miller is charged with assault and civil disorder, obstruction, and — for threats against AOC and the officer who shot Ashli Babbit — interstate threats.

On January 15, 2021, MILLER admitted in a Facebook chat that he is “happy to make death threats so I been just off the rails tonight lol,” and is “happy to be banned now [from Twitter].” When asked whether the police know his name, he responded, “[I]t might be time for me to …. Be hard to locate.”

Last month, Miller filed two motions claiming selective prosecution (for discovery, to dismiss). He argued that Portland defendants were treated differently than he is being treated, because many of the Portland cases involving (some but not all of) the same crimes he was charged with are being dismissed or resulting in plea deals.

UndersignedCounsel has undertaken an extensive review of pleadingsfiled on PACER, press releases issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, and various news accounts as they relate to the Portland riots. From that review, it appearsthat approximately 74 persons were charged with criminal offenses arising out of the riots. 5 Of those 74 persons, to date, approximately 30 persons have had their cases dismissed (often with prejudice) upon motion of the government, 12 persons appear to have been offered dismissals upon completing a pre-trial diversion program, and at least 3 persons have been allowed by the government to plead guilty to significantly reduced charges.6

Most of the Portland rioters were charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 231(a)(3) (civil disorder) and/or a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111 (assault on a federal officer). These are the same charges brought against Mr. Miller in Counts One, Two and Four of the Superseding Indictment based upon his participation in the Washington, D.C. riots.

Given the right wing efforts to compare the two events, this was an inevitable legal challenge. And as such, it will be one of the few times where the government is asked to compare their prosecutorial decisions between the two events.

The government responded to the motion for discovery today. It argues, generally, that Miller hasn’t presented any similarly situated people.

Miller fails this showing. A selective-prosecution claim requires the defendant to identify “similarly situated” individuals who “have not been prosecuted,” Irish People, Inc., 684 F.2d at 946 (citation omitted), and Miller has pointed to no such individual. He instead cites 45 cases (from a sample of 74) where the government charged the defendant with federal offenses arising from riots around the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and where the government subsequently dismissed the charges, entered a deferred-prosecution agreement, or acceded to the defendant’s guilty plea on reduced charges. Doc. 32, at 7.2

2 Miller’s motion further references pleadings from 31 of these cases where, in his view, the defendant’s conduct in Portland mirrored his actions on January 6, 2021. Doc. 32, at 8-16; see also Doc. 32-1 (Attachments 1-31).

This is how most selective prosecution claims die: the precedents require coming in with proof of an almost exactly similar case getting differently treated, and then proving it was differently treated for some kind of bias.

It then points out the obvious: Miller is not claiming selective prosecution, he’s claiming that the outcomes of those prosecutions are different than his is likely to be.

This comparison fails, first and foremost, because the government actually charged nearly all defendants in the listed Oregon cases with civil-disorder or assault offenses. See Doc. 32-1 (Attachments 2-31). Miller has accordingly shown no disparate treatment in the government’s charging approaches. He instead focuses on the manner in which the government ultimately resolved the Oregon cases, and contrasts it with, in his opinion, the “one-sided and draconian plea agreement offer” that the government recently transmitted to him. Doc. 32, at 6. This presentation—which compares the government’s initial plea offer to him with the government’s final resolution in 45 hand-picked Oregon cases—“falls woefully short of demonstrating a consistent pattern of unequal administration of the law.”3 United States v. Bernal-Rojas, 933 F.2d 97, 99 (1st Cir. 1991). In fact, the government’s initial plea offer here rebuts any inference that that it has “refused to plea bargain with [Miller], yet regularly reached agreements with otherwise similarly situated defendants.” Ibid.

3 Miller’s motion notably omits reference to the remaining 29 Oregon cases in his survey, presumably because the government’s litigation decisions in those cases do not conform to his inference of selective treatment.

You can’t claim selective prosecution when those other defendants were also charged, especially not after you, yourself, have been offered the same “significantly reduced charges” you’re complaining Portland protestors got.

But then the government goes into specifics about what distinguishes Miller: generally, there’s far better evidence against Miller, and, specifically, he committed other crimes as well.

More fundamentally, the 45 Oregon cases serve as improper “comparator[s]” because those defendants and Miller are not similarly situated. Stone, 394 F. Supp. 3d at 31. Miller unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol and resisted the law enforcement officers who tried to move him. Doc. 16, at 4. He did so while elected lawmakers and the Vice President of the United States were present in the building and attempting to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in accordance with Article II of the Constitution. Id. at 2-3. And he committed a host of federal offenses attendant to this riot, including threatening to kill a Congresswoman and a USCP officer. Id. at 5-6. All this was captured on video and Miller’s social-media posts. See 4/1/21 Hr’g Tr. 19:14-15 (“[T]he evidence against Mr. Miller is strong.”). Contrast that with the 45 Oregon defendants, who—despite committing serious offenses—never entered the federal courthouse structure, impeded a congressional proceeding, or targeted a specific federal official or officer for assassination. Additionally, the government’s evidence in those cases often relied on officer recollections (e.g., identifying the particular offender on a darkened plaza with throngs of people) that could be challenged at trial—rather than video and well-documented incriminating statements available in this case. These situational and evidentiary differences represent “distinguishable legitimate prosecutorial factors that might justify making different prosecutorial decisions” in Miller’s case. Branch Ministries, 211 F.3d at 145 (quoting United States v. Hastings, 126 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 1997)); see also Price v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 865 F.3d 676, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (observing that a prosecutor may legitimately consider “concerns such as rehabilitation, allocation of criminal justice resources, the strength of the evidence against the defendant, and the extent of a defendant’s cooperation” in plea negotiations) (brackets and citation omitted)

More importantly (and a point that Trevor McFadden made when Couy Griffin tried to claim he was being picked on because he got charged with the same trespassing charge virtually everyone else got charged with), the government notes that Miller hasn’t been treated differently than any of the 500 others who’ve been charged in January 6.

[H]e is one of more than 500 defendants already charged for participating in the riot, and he does not suggest that he has been treated differently than any of those similarly situated defendants.

This is a response to a guy who, though his assault charges are not as serious as the assaults charged against others, then went on Twitter and bragged about committing crimes, and then threatened several people, including a Congressperson. Other January 6 defendants might raise more interesting selective prosecution challenges, which will likely fail for the general comments laid out about the quality of evidence involved. But this challenge was doomed from the start. Miller’s alleged crimes were so well documented — on camera and in his own words — that he was never the person to bring this challenge.

More importantly, the government raises one big reason why the January 6 defendants will be prosecuted and some Portland defendants will not (setting aside the 29 cases Miller tried to pretend didn’t exist), even assuming their alleged crimes are just as bad: because there weren’t tens of thousands of others filming their actions, because they didn’t try to occupy a building full of CCTV, and because they didn’t brag about their crimes after the fact.

This may not end the comparisons between January 6 and Portland. But it does lay out for the court very practical reasons why throwing the book at January 6 defendants is easier to do than Portland defendants: because January 6 defendants committed alleged crimes in bright spaces covered by CCTV and then went on social media and bragged about doing so, whereas many Portland defendants did so in “darkened plazas.”

Invoking the Great Task of Ensuring “the Government of the People Shall Not Perish from the Earth,” Judge Moss Sentences Paul Hodgkins to Eight Months Sentence

Judge Randolph Moss just sentenced Paul Hodgkins to eight months in prison for his role in the January 6 riot. Hodgkins will face two years of probation and pay the $2,000 restitution agreed on in his plea agreement (though will not be fined). The sentence was about what I expected, and a fair sentence for someone who pled guilty first and engaged in no violence (and even tried to calm other rioters).

As I noted here, the important part of this sentence is how Moss got to the sentence. Moss treated January 6 as a grave danger to democracy, and set a sentence to send a message to deter others from engaging in similar behavior. But he also noted that Hodgkins pled guilty first, and did not engage in violence. He even noted that Hodgkins had not engaged in inflammatory speech online, as virtually all January 6 defendants charged with obstruction have. That is, Moss sentenced Hodgkins roughly according to this hypothetical I laid out:

Judge Randolph Moss might explain that he finds Hodgkins’ behavior to be a grave threat to democracy and say that with any other similarly situated defendant, he would sentence him to the maximum sentence in his guideline, 21 months, but because Hodgkins went first, Moss will give him a significant downward variance; that would allow him and all other DC judges to sentence hold-outs more severely than Hodgkins.

Moss emphasized two things about Hodgkins’ conduct that worked against him. First, that he wore goggles, indicating that he came prepared to defend his position. More tellingly, Moss noted that Hodgkins brought a Trump flag and waved it around in the well of the Capitol, an expression of loyalty to a single individual, not loyalty to the American flag.

This is not the baseline sentence for all January 6 rioters accused of obstruction. It is a sentence that was available to Hodgkins and few others, at least in Judge Moss’ courtroom.

Hodgkins made a statement, one that was more effective than the pleas of his attorney. He started by saying, “I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am remorseful, because of the damage that has been caused that the country I love has been hurt.” He noted that he did not place blame on any politician. He emphasized that he recognizes that Joe Biden is the lawfully elected President. He noted that on a few occasions, he tried to get people to stop trashing the joint. He stated he put passion before principle.

As noted, LeDuc’s comments were less powerful, at times claiming he was the only one whose job it was to protect the country, and denying that January 6 had been a terrorist attack. He invoked Lincoln’s effort to heal the country after the Civil War.

Judge Moss retorted that people were prowling the halls of Congress looking to target Nancy Pelosi. He asked LeDuc why he hadn’t quoted Lincoln invoking, “the great task remaining before us,” to ensure the government, “by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Before Moss imposed the sentence, he reiterated how much damage this attack did to democracy, when members were forced to flee for their safety.

That is chilling, for many reasons. To start, democracy requires cooperation with the govt. When a mob threatens Capitol, democracy is in trouble. Damage is way beyond several hour delay. Damage will persist for decades.

He cited Reagan describing our peaceful transfer of power as a miracle. He noted that it “will be harder to convince children that democracy stands as immutable foundation of nation.”

And he emphasized, throughout, that this was a sentence for Paul Hodgkins, not a sentence for all the defendants.

As noted, I think this is a reasonable sentence for Hodgkins. And the way Moss got to the sentence leaves himself and other judges plenty of room to impose harsher sentences to defendants who did more to threaten democracy.

On the Upcoming Sentencing for the First January 6 Felony Defendant, Paul Hodgkins

On Monday, Paul Hodgkins will become the first felony defendant to be sentenced for his role in the January 6 riot.

Before I explain what the parties have said about that sentencing, some background is in order. The government has used obstruction, 18 USC §1512(c)(2), to charge virtually every January 6 defendant who in one way or another (often on social media before and after the riot), expressed the intent to prevent the certification of the vote, as distinct from simply wandering into the Capitol to express some support for Trump. Such an approach has a lot of upsides: it (thus far) avoids the inflammatory step of charging defendants with seditious conspiracy or insurrection (though that remains a possibility, particularly for militia defendants), while accessing the same kind of steep sentences for the most serious defendants. Because of sentencing enhancements built into obstruction, including “substantial interference,” “extensive scope or planning,” and “threatening injury or violence,” using it allows DOJ to make clear distinctions even among the defendants found guilty of obstruction. Just as an example, while Hodgkins’ sentencing range treated his occupation of the Senate Chamber as substantial interference (which resulted in a sentencing range of 15-21 months), he did not get dinged with enhancements that Graydon Young did for all his pre-planning, the Oath Keepers’ threats of violence, and Young’s attempt to destroy his Facebook account (which resulted in a sentencing range, for obstruction and conspiracy, of 63-78 months).

That said, it is an unprecedented application of the obstruction statute (of course, the January 6 insurrection was an unprecedented event). And a number of defendants have active, non-frivolous challenges to that application, some of which I explained here. Hodgkins pled guilty before all that litigation plays out, giving DOJ a significant first endorsement of this charging approach (which may be why Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco sat in on Hodgkins’ guilty plea).

But Monday will be overdetermined because Hodgkins’ sentence, whatever it is, will be taken as setting some kind of standard that over a hundred defendants may be able to point to when it comes to their own sentencing (if DOJ’s application of 1512 is upheld through what is sure to be a number of decisions and appeals). Just as three hypotheticals, Judge Randolph Moss might explain that he finds Hodgkins’ behavior to be a grave threat to democracy and say that with any other similarly situated defendant, he would sentence him to the maximum sentence in his guideline, 21 months, but because Hodgkins went first, Moss will give him a significant downward variance; that would allow him and all other DC judges to sentence hold-outs more severely than Hodgkins. Alternately, Moss might decide that the “significant interference” enhancement shouldn’t apply to Hodgkins and on that basis sentence Hodgkins using a lower guideline (it would give Hodgkins a sentencing range of 8 to 14 months), a judgment that would likely be invoked by a wide range of similar defendants and so would be more binding to other judges and Moss himself in the future. Finally, Moss might rule that what Hodgkins did is barely distinguishable from what he is seeing in some of the trespass cases before him, and so sentence Hodgkins to what would be the max range for one of those trespass charges, six months; such a decision might or might not extend to other obstruction defendants based on factors like whether they told the truth about their actions. Again, those are all just hypotheticals intended to illustrate that why Moss sentences Hodgkins to a particular sentence will be as important going forward as what he sentences him to.

The possibility that Moss might be thinking about what distinguishes Hodgkins from misdemeanor trespass defendants or other defendants charged with obstruction would not be surprising. Because all DC judges have a bunch of January 6 cases, they often express a comparative understanding of them in hearings. So, as Moss prepares to sentence Hodgkins, he might be comparing Hodgkins’ conduct with what has been charged against other defendants over whose cases he is presiding. Moss has a wide range of defendants before him (the Klein brothers, who have ties to the Proud Boys, are his only militia defendants), but the most useful comparisons with other defendants charged with obstruction include:

  • Brady Knowlton and Patrick Montgomery, who were also in the Senate Chamber and who are among the defendants challenging the application of 1512; Montgomery was charged with resisting a police officer after having claimed on Facebook not to have stormed the Capitol violently
  • Bruno Cua, who was charged with assault and civil disorder on top of obstruction and sat in Pence’s chair in the Senate Chamber even as others there told him not to
  • Ryan Suleski, who is also charged with stealing some papers from a member of Congress, who hinted at more to come in an interview after the riot, and who may not have been entirely forthright when interviewed by the FBI
  • Melody Steele-Smith, who boasted of entering Nancy Pelosi’s office and storming the Capitol on Facebook before she deleted those posts

In other words, Judge Moss’ sentencing decision may be as influenced by what he thinks of Knowlton’s similar conduct and fully-briefed challenge to 1512 as it will be by the memoranda before him. It may be influenced by a belief that Hodgkins didn’t do what other defendants did — including misrepresenting their own behaviors either to the FBI or in his own courtroom — while getting charged for the same crime.

That comparative approach may be Hodgkins’ best argument for a lenient sentence. Hodgkins’ sentencing memo makes a sustained and not very convincing pitch for the effort to forgive sedition after the Civil War and throws in some bullshit language about “cancel” culture, then asks for probation (as most defense attorneys do for obstruction). But it then argues that, given how little separates Hodgkins from defendants charged with misdemeanor trespass (significantly, that he entered the Senate Chamber itself), he should benefit from a minimal participation variance.

We contend that when one’s role is similar to the several hundred Defendant’s found inside the same building as Mr. HODGKINS who are being offered misdemeanors, and whose conduct is the same as the totality of the misconduct that is alleged in the instant case, as noted in the PSR paragraphs 10-19, that Mr. HODGKINS’ role was only minimal and deserving of a variance. Because Mr. HODGKINS is accepting a felony, giving him the minimal role variance creates a just result for sentencing purposes. Importantly, this argument is about sentencing. The Defendant has pled to a felony offense because of his presence on the Senate floor. Those being offered misdemeanors offense for being inside the Capitol could also arguably have been compelled to plead to the same felony count as Mr. HODGKINS, but for the distinction of their location within the building. While for findings purposes, Mr. HODGKINS presence inside the Senate chambers vice the Rotunda is an important consideration, for purposes of sentencing there is zero space between Mr. HODGKINS conduct and that of the several hundred others who entered the United States Capitol who are being sentenced for a misdemeanor offense. Mr. HODGKINS should be treated likewise. One surmises that had Mr. HODGKINS simply stopped at the Senate door, he also would be facing a misdemeanor charge rather than this felony offense.

This is a fairly convincing argument, not least because of the defendants who were in the Senate Chamber (notably including Cua), Hodgkins engaged in far less obstructive behavior while there.

The government, meanwhile, seems to have taken an approach that hopes to leave itself maximal flexibility after this first January 6 obstruction sentencing, one that really doesn’t credit Hodgkins all that much for being the first to plead guilty.

The defendant, Paul Hodgkins, participated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol—a violent attack that forced an interruption of the certification of the 2020 Electoral College vote count, threatened the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 Presidential election, injured more than one hundred law enforcement officers, and resulted in more than a million dollars’ worth of property damage. Hodgkins entered the Capitol wearing a backpack containing protective eye goggles, rope, and white latex gloves, among other items. He made his way to the heart of the proceeding that he has pleaded guilty to obstructing – the Senate chamber – where he took “selfie-style” photographs and saluted others who were shouting and cheering from a nearby raised platform in the well of the chamber. The government nonetheless recognizes that Hodgkins did not personally engage in or espouse violence or property destruction, he accepted responsibility early and in a fulsome manner, and he has taken significant steps toward his rehabilitation. Accordingly, the government recommends that the Court sentence Hodgkins to 18 months in custody, which is the mid-point of the Sentencing Guidelines as calculated by the U.S. Probation Office and as contemplated in the parties’ plea agreement. An 18-month, within Guidelines sentence is also supported by the U.S. Probation Office’s conclusion that neither a downward departure nor a downward variance is warranted in this case.

[snip]

The government recognizes that Hodgkins did not personally destroy property or engage in any violence against law enforcement officers. But he was surrounded by others who were doing both, and he entered the Capitol as others had paved the way with destruction and violence. Time and time again, rather than turn around and retreat, Hodgkins pressed forward until he walked all the way down to the well of the Senate chamber. Hodgkins came to D.C. preparing to encounter violence around him. He was a rioter, not a protester, and his conduct shows that he was determined to interfere with the vote count and the peaceful transition of power in the 2020 Presidential election. Hodgkins entered the Senate chamber, where he joined the chanting and ranting at the dais. This was precisely where, only 40 minutes earlier, the Vice President had been sitting at the desk on the elevated platform, surrounded by Senators who were considering a procedural issue related to the certification of the Electoral College vote.

In the end, Hodgkins, like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy, physical safety, emotional well-being, and property on January 6, 2021.

Keep in mind, the same way defense attorneys always ask for probation, prosecutors always ask for harsh sentences, knowing the judge will usually find some happy medium, and in doing so here, they’re not starting at the top of the sentencing range. But ultimately, by asking Judge Moss to apply a medium range sentence to a defendant facing a range that a large number of defendants might likewise face, they’re trying to set a standard sentence and have it start reasonably high. They’re really not fully accounting for what it took Hodgkins to decide to be the first to plead guilty; they seem to be thinking as much about the over a hundred defendants coming down the pike and so trying to frame how they’re conceiving of this obstruction crime generally as they’re thinking about Hodgkins himself.

Curiously, Judge Moss (possibly with the input of other DC District judges) afforded himself an extra range of flexibility by inviting the Sentencing Commission to review average sentences for the sentencing guidelines that Hodgkins faces. Significantly, the Sentencing Commission found that of those facing the same guidelines sentence as Hodgkins, almost a quarter — 22.6% — got a probation sentence, though it appears all but one of those probation sentences involved a defendant who provided prosecutors “substantial assistance,” and a goodly number got closer to six months after variances below range.

MINUTE ORDER as to PAUL ALLARD HODGKINS (1): In connection with the sentencing of Defendant, the Court has requested and obtained, via email, from the U.S. Sentencing Commission the following information regarding the sentencing of offenders with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct to Defendant in this case. The Sentencing Commission reports as follows:

“In the case before you the defendant pled guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). The guideline that applies is USSG 2J1.2. Your Probation Office has calculated the guideline range as follows: BOL 14, a 3-level increase for substantial interference with the administration of justice, and a 3-level adjustment for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a final offense level (FOL) of 14. The offender is assigned to Criminal History Category I. The applicable guideline range is 15-21 months.

“We examined our records from fiscal year 2014 through 2020, and found 31 cases that match this guideline calculation. None of these cases were reported from the District of Columbia. In only nine cases was 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) a statute of conviction.

“For the 31 cases matching the guideline calculation under USSG § 2J1.2, in 16 cases (51.6%) the offender received a prison only sentence, in six cases (19.4%) the offender received prison with an alternative, in two cases (6.4 %) the sentences was probation with some condition of confinement, and in seven cases (22.6%) the sentence was probation only.

“Of the 31 cases, in seven (22.6%) the sentence was within the guideline range. The average sentence in those cases was 19 months (median = 21 months). Two cases (6.5%) were above range: one upward departure to 36 months and one upward variance to 48 months. The remaining 21 cases (71.0%) were below range. Thirteen cases were below range variances. The average sentence in those cases was seven months (median = six months). One case was downward departure to 14 months, another was a government departure to probation, and the remaining case was a government variance to six months. The remaining six cases were substantial assistance cases.

“In order to provide a more narrowly-tailored analysis, we then limited our analysis to the nine cases in which section 1512(c)(2) was one of the statutes (or the only statute) of conviction. Of those nine cases, in two the sentence was within the guideline range. The sentences were 15 and 21 months. There was one upward departure to 36 months. Three cases were below range variances. The average sentence in those cases was 10 months (median = 12 months). One case was a downward departure to 14 months. The remaining two cases were substantial assistance cases.” Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 07/13/2021. (lcrdm3)

While this table is a rough estimation of what this language says, basically it says a group of people were sentenced to a guidelines sentence, another bigger group were sentenced to around six months, and a third group were sentenced to probation — but never without government agreement (either for a departure or for cooperation).

What Moss has done by obtaining this information and publishing it was, first, to go into Monday’s sentencing hearing with proof that whatever he does will be fair as compared to what has happened to others. Obtaining the guidelines also gives Moss some flexibility. He could, to recognize Hodgkins’ first guilty plea, give him a significant downward variance (and/or sentence him to some alternative to prison, such as weekend confinement), pointing out that the largest group of defendants similarly situated to him got around six months. Alternately, he could explain why he wasn’t giving Hodgkins the probation he requested by pointing out that almost everyone who got a probation sentence in recent history cooperated with prosecutors against others.

Whatever Judge Moss decides (I would be unsurprised by a four to six month sentence, possibly with the opportunity to serve it on weekends or something similar), Hodgkins went first because he has a legitimate argument to make that, aside from his presence on the Senate floor, his behavior really was less culpable than many of the defendants charged with the same crime. Which means — again assuming this novel application of obstruction is upheld going forward — this is just the beginning of a long series of similar horse trading over sentences going forward.

Update: Josh Gerstein reminded me that Judge Moss used a similar approach to George Papadopoulos’ sentencing and — believing that Papadopoulos felt remorse — sentenced him to fourteen days rather than the thirty days he had been considering. Papadopoulos’ guidelines were 0 to 6 months.

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