Posts

What is the appropriate sanction for a “pawn” who participated in a coup attempt?

One thing I informally track in January 6 guilty pleas is education level. At the beginning of most change of plea hearings, as part of an effort to substantiate competence to plead guilty, most judges ask, “How far did you go in school?” I first started to take note when Oath Keeper Graydon Young replied that he has a graduate degree. He’s a dramatic outlier. Since then, my very informal tracking of this detail has shown that very very few of the January 6 defendants who’ve pled guilty so far have a four year degree (others who do include but are not limited to Cleveland Meredith Jr, Jenna Ryan, and Andrew Ericson, the latter of whom finished a CompSci degree since the riot).

I track this demographic not out of intellectual snobbery. I know of some absolutely brilliant people who didn’t finish school (a close family member has been very successful without finishing college, and a good number of the smartest students in the 600 student high school class of which I was valedictorian dropped out short of graduation).

Rather, it’s that based on this unscientific observation, the January 6 defendants who’ve pled guilty are, demographically, dramatically less likely to have a four-year degree than the US population, closer to 10% (perhaps 8 of the 96 people who’ve pled guilty) than the 36% that one might expect of the population more broadly. To be sure, this is not scientific. At least two DC judges don’t ask this question, and my count reflects only those hearings where I was personally listening or another journalist who has become aware of my focus on it has noted it. Plus, there may be reasons why people with less education plead guilty earlier, such as that more of them make up those charged with misdemeanor trespassing. But even Brandon Straka, one of the leaders of the larger Trump movement, described that he went through 12th grade and then got a vocational degree at his change of plea.

January 6 defendants seem disproportionately white and rural, but they also appear to be less educated than the country as a whole, even those who’ve had a good deal of financial success.

I raise all that as background to the sentencing memo for Jack Griffith submitted overnight by Heather Shaner, the same defense attorney who convinced Anna Morgan-Lloyd to do some book reports before sentencing (after which Morgan-Lloyd went straight to Fox News to disclaim her stated remorse).

Shaner doesn’t really address the government’s request for a three month jail term.

Griffith pled guilty to one count of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(G): Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Building. As explained below, a custodial sentence is appropriate in this case because Griffith committed his January 6th crime in a manner that trivialized the severity  of the chaotic and dangerous attack, and his later self-promotion and commentary about his participation in the riot demonstrates continued pride in his actions. Griffith had many opportunities to remove himself from the disorder of January 6th but was all too happy to continue his participation. Following his arrest, his casual attitude toward these criminal proceedings demonstrated a lack of respect for this Court—worrying only that he did not want to appear too “cocky” that it was all going to go well for him. By minimizing the seriousness of his conduct, Griffith fails to recognize the harm he caused to his country, the law enforcement officers who were trying to defend it, and others who were working at the Capitol to carry out a Constitutionally mandated process for the peaceful transfer of power

Instead, Shaner focused on what the January 6 riot was, describing it as a coup attempt fomented by people who deliberately manipulated people online.

What occurred on January 6, 2021 was not a naturally developed political protest. It was, I believe, a coup attempt–fomented intentionally by right wing actors who used data mining and psychological manipulation. Vulnerable individuals were identified and persuaded through the internet that it was their patriotic duty to come to Washington to support Trump. In Washington, they were emboldened and ushered down the avenue to “Stop the Steal” and to storm the Capitol.

It is fitting and appropriate to arrest those who participated in the attempted coup. The difficult question is what is the appropriate sanction for a pawn who personally did no physical damage nor assaulted law enforcement– but nonetheless participated in the riot. As Fiona Hill recently stated the “main threats” to democracy come from right-wing actors who are deliberately undermining faith in the “integrity of the election system” and “calling for violence against fellow Americans.” Among the thousands who came to Washington in January and have since been arrested– few among the arrested are the people described by Ambassador Hill. Of the several individuals I have been appointed to represent—none are informed, intentional political actors. Four of the individuals I represent are very young—were heavily reliant on the internet—were uniformed and misinformed. Two individuals suffer from diagnosed mental diseases. The balance of individuals I have come to know and to respect are vulnerable, politically unsophisticated individuals, who are truly confounded by what is happening in our country. Good people with no criminal history—our neighbors– who were fed cynical and dangerous misinformation which destroyed their faith in the integrity of the election system. People who wrongly believed they could save America.

I think Shaner’s description of the event is sound. But I’m not sure she, or anyone, knows the answer to her question: What we do about pawns mobilized for a coup attempt, particularly in the absence of any accountability (yet) for the more powerful coup plotters.

Shaner argues that probation is appropriate for Griffith for two reasons. First, to avoid making a martyr of him.

We should not make pariahs or martyrs of these men and women.

But also to provide a period in which more education can occur.

To save our Union we must be wise. We must be compassionate. We must listen. We must provide the opportunity for the approximately 550 charged misdemeanants to receive more education, and to encourage each of them to study history and to gain civic literacy. Only knowledge—truth based on facts– can foster change. At this critical moment of civil discord and domestic contention –if it is still possible to create a more perfect Union –it must be through education. We cannot force people to learn. But during Probation, we can provide the impetus and the opportunity of continuing education.

This is an argument not about Jack Griffith (and because she’s pitching this to Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who asked with this defendant why DOJ hadn’t charged him more aggressively, it’s unlikely to work). It’s an argument about what the path forward needs to be.

Few people besides Shaner think probation can accomplish what she envisions here (though a three year term of probation will keep defendants supervised and prohibited from owning guns through the next Presidential election). Indeed, the two judges imposing most disparate sentences for trespassers so far, Tanya Chutkan (who has sentenced two trespassers, including Anna Morgan-Lloyd’s buddy, Dona Bissey, to jail terms in the last week), and Trevor McFadden (who has sentenced defendants to far shorter terms of probation than the government asked for, though with extra on top) have come out against probation for these defendants. Chutkan believes Probation is simply too overtaxed to deal with the influx of all these trespassers. McFadden seems to believe what he sees as a debt to society can better be paid through a fine (he imposed the only fine thus far on Danielle Doyle) or community service (which he imposed on Eliel Rosa); McFadden also believes that January 6 defendants are being treated more harshly than other rioters.

Meanwhile, in the case of Robert Reeder, who was first charged with trespassing then, at the last minute, discovered to have assaulted a cop and downplayed that to the FBI, got sentenced to just three months in jail by Thomas Hogan, rather than the six months prosecutors requested rather than charging him with that assault.

I don’t know the answer to Shaner’s question. And I badly wish that Prettyman Courthouse were fully open so I could assume that judges were hashing this out over lunch in their judge’s lunchroom. I know that there are a significant portion of defendants who really were just engaged in the kind of civil disobedience I don’t want criminalized. Though I also know that as DOJ has pushed to move through the misdemeanors and accepted downward pleas from those charged more seriously for a variety of reasons, it has fostered seeming inequities among the growing group of trespassers being sentenced.

Whether or not Shaner is right about Griffith, she’s right about what happened: Coup plotters used conspiracy theories to mobilize thousands, as if in a cult, to storm the Capitol. We need deprogramming as much as we need jail time. And our criminal justice system is probably ill-suited to provide either.

Puzzling Developments in the January 6 Investigation

As I sometimes do, I’d like to look at some curious developments in a series of January 6 cases.

Adam Honeycutt’s trips to DC

If you read just his arrest affidavit, former bail bondsman Adam Honeycutt is a guy who made the grave mistake of posting a picture of himself holding a broken furniture leg to Facebook during the January 6 riot.

Honeycutt was arrested on misdemeanor trespass charges on February 11, but since then his DC case has been continued, with no indictment, until — with the most recent continuation at a status hearing on Tuesday — January 4, almost a year after the riot.

If you look more closely, however, things get more confusing. As several earlier requests for continuances reveal, Honeycutt made the still graver mistake of having guns and non-legal marijuana in his home when the FBI came to arrest him on his January 6 charges, and then chatting about it as he was being driven to the FBI office.

During the transport, HONEYCUTT made a number of unsolicited statements to TFO Rohermel and SA Grover related to his use of marihuana. HONEYCUTT stated that all of the drugs and guns in the house belonged to him, that he knew it looked bad ot have guns layout out in the open in his residence, that he had a large quantity of ammunition of various calibers in the residence, some of which was for firearms he did not currently possess. HONEYCUTT also stated that it was lucky that agents had executed the warrants that day, because his marihuana supply was almost gone, and if the agents had executed the warrants the following day he would have had more because Fridays are his day for resupplying marihuana. HONEYCUTT stated that there were only a few “roaches” left in the garage, referring to burned marihuana cigarette butts. HONEYCUTT stated that he had been smoking marihuana since he was twelve years old and smokes daily. HONEYCUTT expressed to the agents that he was upset he was out of marihuana and there would not be any for him when he got home.

Honeycutt was as a result also charged under a bullshit draconian war on drugs law that carries a ten year maximum sentence, meaning what otherwise might have been a simple trespassing plea turned into (thus far) 8 months of detention on the Florida Federal charge. Honeycutt pled guilty to that charge in June, but is still awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for next week.

And there’s a curious detail in his sentencing memo on that charge. He reveals that somewhere along the line, he got transferred to DC, even though by March he was formally released from custody on the DC charge.

Mr. Honeycutt has been in custody continuously since February 24, 2021 and has had the additional hardship of prolonged transports from McClenny to Washington, DC in during the pandemic. While in transit, Mr. Honeycutt was assaulted by another inmate while using the phone at the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma. The inmate struck him on the back of the head causing Mr. Honeycutt to hit his head on the ground and suffer dizziness and a black eye. While he suspected he may have had a concussion, this has never been confirmed medically. Also, while detained at the Baker County Jail, Mr. Honeycutt tested positive for Covid-19 and was placed on restrictive quarantine for 14 days while he recovered.

None of that shows up in his docket, though it may simply reflect a remarkably quick transfer after his initial arrest (and Honeycutt would not be the only January 6 defendant who got in a beat up at the Oklahoma transfer jail).

I don’t condone any of this, least of all the war on drugs treatment of marijuana possession. But it’s the kind of stuff that prosecutors use to coerce cooperation elsewhere. And while it’s not at all clear what went on with Honeycutt, his case will still be pending next year on the anniversary of the riot.

Lonnie Coffman’s Alabama Molotovs

Something similar may be going on with Lonnie Coffman’s Molotov cocktails.

Coffman, you’ll recall, is the guy who was dropped off blocks away from the Capitol on January 6, trying to pick up his GMC pick-up full of Molotov cocktails.

After addressing the explosive devices found in the vicinity of the National Republican Club and the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, the Bomb Squad responded to the location of the Red GMC Sierra Pickup truck. One black handgun was recovered from the right front passenger seat of the vehicle. After locating the black handgun, officers proceeded to search the rest of the pickup truck, including the bed of the truck, which was secured under a fabric top. During the search of the cab of the truck, officers recovered, among other things, one M4 Carbine assault rifle along with rifle magazines loaded with ammunition.

In addition, officers recovered the following items in the bed of the pickup truck in close proximity to one another: (i) eleven mason jars containing an unknown liquid with a golf tee in the top of each jar, (ii) cloth rags, and (iii) lighters. Upon finding these materials, bomb technicians observed that the items appeared to be consistent with components for an explosive or incendiary device known as a “Molotov Cocktail.” Based on this discovery, additional personnel were called to the scene, including the United States Capitol Police Hazardous Materials Team. A preliminary test by the United States Capitol Police Hazardous Material Team determined that the liquid in the mason jars was an igniting substance and that it had a spectrograph profile consistent with gasoline.

[snip]

At approximately 6:30 p.m., a blue sedan with a female driver and a male front passenger, approached law enforcement officers in the 400 block of First Street, Southeast. Officers made contact with the vehicle, and the male passenger stated that he was trying to get to his vehicle that was parked in the 300 block of First Street, Southeast, which is the location that the Red GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck had been located and searched. When the officers asked the man to provide a description of the vehicle, the male passenger stated that it was a red pickup truck. The officers then asked what the male passenger’s name was, and he stated that his name was “Lonnie.”

Coffman also has been detained (more justifiably than Honeycutt) since he was arrested. For much of that time, he has been working on a plea agreement, and on September 1, his lawyer reported they were close to one. On September 8, AUSA Michael Friedman said they would be ready for a plea by September 29.

But one day before that happened, the plea hearing was inexplicably vacated until October 26.

Unnoticed until yesterday, it turns out that on September 27 (that is, the day before his plea hearing was vacated), Coffman was charged in Alabama for possessing those Molotov cocktails the week before he drove them to DC. With Coffman’s consent, that case got transferred to DC in an entirely different docket than his January 6 one.

As with Honeycutt, it’s entirely unclear how his Alabama Federal charges are intersecting with his DC ones. Perhaps Coffman got cold feet on his plea last month, so DOJ added the Alabama charges to convince him to plead. But its another reminder that not every part of the January 6 investigation will be visible in the DC docket.

Brandon Straka gets to walk away

Meanwhile, a case that never left the DC docket, that of Brandon Straka, is just as curious.

Straka was first arrested on January 25 on civil disorder, as well as trespass, charges. Since that time, AUSA April Russo has gotten a series of continuances (February, May, August), each one citing efforts to resolve the matter, which is usually code for a plea agreement. A week after the last continuance, DOJ made a plea offer that had to be accepted by September 14. The day after the plea agreement would have expired, Straka was ultimately charged with the less serious of the two trespass charges, and after a tweak, that’s what he pled guilty to on Wednesday.

Straka’s Statement of Offense includes (and Russo made a point of entering it into the record) the incitement of attacks on cops that originally got him charged for civil disorder.

While in the restricted area, knowing he was not authorized to be there, Straka observed the crowd yelling and U.S. Capitol Police trying to prevent people from going into the U.S. Capitol and to manage the unruly crowd. Amongst other things, he engaged in disruptive conduct by participating, along with others, in yelling “go, go, go” to encourage others to enter the U.S. Capitol while the U.S. Capitol Police were making their best efforts to prevent people from doing so. Straka also observed others yelling to take a U.S. Capitol Police Officer’s shield. He recorded a video of what was happening, and in the video, he chimed in with the crowd, saying “take it, take it.” He did this between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. on January 6 while outside the entrance to the U.S. Capitol in the restricted area on the Capitol Grounds. Straka left the U.S. Capitol Grounds at approximately 3:00 p.m.

But the Statement of Offense doesn’t include any description of his speech from January 5, where he spoke about “revolution.”

My review of STRAKA’s Twitter account on January 11, also found a video he had posted of himself speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally held at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 5, 2021. As of January 13, STRAKA had removed this video from his Twitter account, but a video of the entire event had been posted to YouTube. The video showed that STRAKA was introduced by name and brought onto stage. STRAKA spoke for about five minutes during which time he repeatedly referred to the attendees as “Patriots” and referenced the “revolution” multiple times. STRAKA told the attendees to “fight back” and ended by saying, “We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!”

Nor does his Statement of Offense include this language from Straka’s arrest affidavit describing a video in which he admitted that, “The plan was always to go to the Capitol.”

About one minute into the video, STRAKA stated, “I literally just got home…minutes ago from Washington, D.C.” Later in the video, STRAKA stated, “Yesterday, a lot of us got up very, very early. We went to this event in which Donald Trump spoke. The plan was always to go to the Capitol. We were going to march from that event…to the Capitol, and there was going to be another rally. I was one of the speakers slated to speak at the Capitol.” STRAKA later stated that, while riding the metro to the Capitol, he received alerts on his phone stating that Vice President Pence was “not going to object to certifying Joe Biden.” STRAKA stated that he learned on his walk from the metro to the Capitol that people had “breached” the Capitol and that “patriots had entered the Capitol.” STRAKA said that he thought to himself, “Wow, so they’re going to basically storm and try to get into the chamber so that they can demand that we get the investigation that we want.”

Not only was Straka permitted to a plea that may help him avoid all jail time, but DOJ assented to letting him rush the sentencing so he could be done by Christmas, coincidentally on the same day all the status reports for Oath Keeper cooperators are next due.

Baked Alaska — someone as wired into the organizers of this riot as Straka — claimed early on that prosecutors were threatening to charge him with obstruction if he didn’t cooperate.

This plea looks like it could be the flip (heh) side of such an offer, someone who worked his way out of an existing felony charge and any further exposure on obstruction. That said, his plea includes the standard boilerplate language about minimal cooperation (basically, requiring the defendant share the contents of his phone).

If this does reflect cooperation, then it suggests a number of other people exposed to felony prosecution may similarly be cooperating under the guise of misdemeanor plea agreements.

Ryan Samsel’s aborted cooperation

For about the first four months after Ryan Samsel kicked off the entire riot on January 6 by allegedly knocking over a cop, it looked like he might be considering a cooperation agreement. The same prosecutor who filed continuances in Straka’s case, April Russo, was filing continuances in his case (March, May), also citing efforts to resolve the case.

But on March 21, Samsel was brutally assaulted in jail; his attorney claimed at the time that a guard did it, though that has never been officially confirmed. Samsel’s assault set off a feeding frenzy as one after another attorney — first Martin Tankleff, then John Pierce (whose clients include a significant bunch who could incriminate Joe Biggs), and now Stanley Woodward and former Trump vote fraudster Juli Haller — tried to capitalize off a client who might have basis for a big lawsuit against DOJ (Elisabeth Pasqualini did very competent work as Samsel’s first attorney before all this started). The events that transpired after that assault seems to have ended up changing prosecutors’ approach with his case, and in June, DOJ added another prosecutor, Danielle Rosborough, and in August, DOJ finally indicted Samsel on two counts of civil disorder, two counts of assault, obstruction, and trespassing. (Russo remains the sole prosecutor on the case against the woman who was (and may still be) Samsel’s girlfriend on the day of the riot, Raechel Genco.)

All that’s important background to a big scoop from NYT’s Alan Feuer, describing that, when Samsel was originally arrested, he told the FBI that he kicked off that assault after a threat from Joe Biggs.

For months, however, according to three people familiar with the matter, the government has known Mr. Samsel’s account of the exchange: He has told investigators that Mr. Biggs encouraged him to push at the barricades and that when he hesitated, the Proud Boys leader flashed a gun, questioned his manhood and repeated his demand to move upfront and challenge the police.

Mr. Samsel’s version of events was provided to the government in late January, when he was interviewed by the F.B.I., without a lawyer present, shortly after his arrest in Pennsylvania, according to the people familiar with the matter. He has since been charged with several crimes, including assaulting an officer and obstructing Congress’s efforts to certify the election results.

[snip]

[I]f Mr. Samsel’s account is true, it could serve to bolster arguments that some Proud Boys leaders intentionally incited ordinary people in the crowd — or what they refer to as “normies” — to commit violence during the attack. The government has offered other evidence, drawn from the group’s internal messaging chats, that two Proud Boys leaders from Philadelphia were excited by the prospect of “riling up the normies” on Jan. 6.

As Feuer notes, Biggs’ lawyer Daniel Hull categorically denies this claim. As he also notes, there has been no hint of a weapons charge against Biggs. So it’s quite possible that this allegation was entirely made up out of thin air–or exaggerated in a bid for lenient treatment for Samsel’s own central role in the riot.

But there’s also no sign that DOJ is charging Samsel with lying about these claims.

That is, from the public filings, we can’t discern whether Samsel’s allegation is true or not.

That said, if it’s true, it might explain both the apparent attempt to woo Samsel’s cooperation, but also the urgency surrounding efforts to make sure he doesn’t do so.

The government has flamboyantly obtained cooperation from five different Oath Keepers. But precisely what the government is doing in a slew of other cases remains obscure.

Update: There were three people involved in the assault on the first barricade: Samsel, Paul Johnson, and Stephen Chase Randolph. The latter two are charged together, though Johnson is moving to sever his case from Randolph’s. Here’s the government opposition. Never addressed in it are why Samsel is not only not charged with them, but is before an entirely different judge, who just happens to be the Proud Boy judge.

Stop the Steal: Hints of the January 5 Rallies in the January 6 Riot Investigation

With the charges against Owen Shroyer, the government has now charged three people who had a speaking part in several rallies tied to Stop the Steal the day before the insurrection: Brandon Straka, Russell Taylor and his co-conspirators, and Shroyer. Because I’m working on some gaps in the government’s story — gaps that must be intentional, for investigative or prosecutorial reasons — I want to look at how DOJ is beginning to fill in the story about January 5.

With Walk Away founder Brandon Straka, who was arrested on January 25, the mention of his speech at the Stop the Steal rally at Freedom Plaza in his arrest affidavit was almost incidental, included along with the rest of his incendiary speech directly tied to the riot (but the affidavit didn’t include his other public comments over a broader period — for example, it doesn’t mention Straka’s role in sowing suspicion of the Michigan vote tally).

My review of STRAKA’s Twitter account on January 11, also found a video he had posted of himself speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally held at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 5, 2021. As of January 13, STRAKA had removed this video from his Twitter account, but a video of the entire event had been posted to YouTube. The video showed that STRAKA was introduced by name and brought onto stage. STRAKA spoke for about five minutes during which time he repeatedly referred to the attendees as “Patriots” and referenced the “revolution” multiple times. STRAKA told the attendees to “fight back” and ended by saying, “We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!”

Though Straka was charged with civil disorder for encouraging others to strip an officer of his riot shield, he has not yet been indicted, with or without obstruction, which these statements would seem to support. Instead, the government has gotten two 90-plus day continuances in this case with Straka’s consent, offering the explanation that, “are continuing to communicate in an effort to resolve this matter.” Straka currently has a status hearing scheduled on August 25, Wednesday, though these things do get moved quickly.

The January 5 rally at the Supreme Court (which featured some of the same people as the Freedom Plaza one) appears in the So Cal Three Percenter conspiracy indictment in part for the logistical challenges it posed.

On December 30, 2020, KINNISON sent a text message to MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ in which he attached a flyer advertising the January 5, 2021 rally outside the Supreme Court, at which TAYLOR, HOSTETTER, and PERSON ONE were named speakers for the American Phoenix Project. After KINNISON set this message, MELE wrote, “We need to make sure we roll into town earlier on the 5th now,” to which KINNISON responded, “We can leave Saturday.”

But it still provided cause for DOJ to mention that by December 30, Russell Taylor knew of a Stop the Steal plan to “surround the Capitol.”

On December 30, 2020, TAYLOR posted to his “russ.taylor” Instagram account:

Spread the word to other CALIFORNIA Patriots to join us as we March into the Capitol Jan 6. The Plan right now is to meet up at two occasions and locations: 1. Jan 5th 2pm at the Supreme Court steps for a rally. (Myself, Alan, [and others] will be speaking) 2. Jan 6th early 7am meet in front of the Kimpton George Hotel…we will leave at 7:30am sharp and March (15 mins) to the Capital [sic] to meet up with the stop the steal organization and surround the capital. [sic] There will be speakers there and we will be part of the large effort for the “Wild Rally” that Trump has asked us all to be part of. [my emphasis]

Mentioning this rally also gave DOJ an opportunity to describe Taylor promising to “fight” and “bleed” in his speech at the rally.

On January 5, 2021, TAYLOR spoke at a Virginia Women for Trump rally in front of the United States Supreme Court as part of a panel of American Phoenix Project speakers. In his speech, he stated:

I am Russell Taylor and I am a free American. And I stand here in the streets with you in defiance of a communist coup that is set to take over America. But we are awake and we are never going back to sleep. We are free Americans and in these streets we will fight and we will bleed before we allow our freedom to be taken from us. We declare that we will never bend a knee to the Marxists within Antifa, to the tyrannical Democrat governors who are puppets, and to the deep state commie actors who threaten to destroy America…. But now these anti-Americans have made the fatal mistake, and they have brought out the Patriot’s fury onto these streets and they did so without knowing that we will not return to our peaceful way of life until this election is made right, our freedoms are restored, and American is preserved.

That is, in the conspiracy indictment charging 3 percenters with organizing not just themselves to come armed to the Capitol, but others in Southern California, the earlier rally serves as both an organizational focus and a platform to sow violence.

Shroyer’s affidavit mentions several things he said on January 5

SHROYER traveled to Washington, D.C. in January 2021, and in advance of January 6, 2021, spoke of stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote. In a video1 posted to the Infowars website on January 5, 2021, SHROYER gave an address in Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C., during which he stated: “Americans are ready to fight. We’re not exactly sure what that’s going to look like perhaps in a couple of weeks if we can’t stop this certification of the fraudulent election . . . we are the new revolution! We are going to restore and we are going to save the republic!”

In another video2 posted to the Infowars website on January 5, 2021, SHROYER called into an Infowars live broadcast and said: “what I’m afraid of is if we do not get this false certification of Biden stopped this week. I’m afraid of what this means for the rest of the month . . . Everybody knows election was stolen . . . are we just going to sit here and become activists for 4 years or are going to actually do something about this . . . whatever that cause or course of cause may be?”3

In addition, SHROYER was featured in promotional material circulated by Infowars. One promotional video urged listeners to “come to the big D.C. marches on the 5th and 6th of January, I’ll see you there.”4 The video ended with an edited graphic of SHROYER and others in front of the Capitol building. That graphic is depicted below:

1 https://banned.video/watch?id=5ff4aebaa285a02ed04c4d6e.

2 https://banned.video/watch?id=5ff511bb5a212330029f5a9c.

3 https://banned.video/watch?id=5ff511bb5a212330029f5a9c.

4 https://www.banned.video/watch?id=5ff22bb71f93a8267a6432ee.

While Shroyer is circled in that graphic — which demonstrates that Jones had a plan to go to the Capitol (significantly, this is the East front) days in advance — it really is all about Jones.

As I noted, this is just a trespass arrest, like hundreds of other trespass arrests (though by charging Shroyer with violating a pre-existing Deferred Prosecution Agreement, they lessen any claims of persecution that will come as they investigate Shroyer further).

But what these three arrests together show is that those involved as speakers on January 5 seem to have had advance knowledge of what would happen the next day.

One of the other mentions of January 5 rallies thus far appears in the filings for Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nate DeGrave, three random guys who hooked up on the Internet and armed themselves for violence in advance of January 6. Though they have no ties to any organized militia, the day after they went to a January 5 rally, they seemed to know there would be a second front opening at the East door, and Sandlin and DeGrave were among those charged with forcibly ensuring that door was opened.

The Hybrid Hatchet Conspiracy: A Premeditated Plan to Surround the Capitol on January 6

Contrary to what you might read on Twitter, I have not been predicting that Trump will be held accountable for January 6. Rather, I am observing–based on actual court filings and the evidence in them–that if he or his associates were to be held accountable, that would happen via conspiracy indictments, indictments that have already reached within two degrees of Trump’s closest associates. In a hearing yesterday, Christopher Wray answered one after another question about holding Trump accountable by talking about conspiracy indictments, so it seems he may agree with me.

Just the other day, for example, I suggested we might see prosecutions of those involved in the rallies, as opposed to busting into the Capitol.

Together, those posts argue that if any kingpins will be held accountable, it will be through a conspiracy prosecution. I note that one of the conspiracies has already reached back to the Willard Hotel, where Roger Stone was staying and where the call patterns suggest possible consultation with people present at the hotel. And I suggest that not only will there will be further conspiracies (I’m pretty confident about that prediction) but there may be more complex prosecutions tied to people who were involved in the rallies rather than the riot or who were discussed explicitly with Rudy Giuliani (I’m far less confident about that possibility).

That doesn’t mean Donald Trump, or even Roger Stone or Rudy Giuliani, are going to prison. It’s not clear what kind of evidence is out there. It’s not clear how loyal these famously paranoid people will be without the constant dangle of pardons that Trump used to buy silence during the Mueller investigation.

Earlier in the week, I noted that DOJ had already charged one of the speakers on January 5, Brandon Straka, and has been holding him in a kind of limbo awaiting what look like possible charges of obstruction and civil disorder.

Then there’s the case of Brandon Straka. He’s the head of the Walkaway campaign, and was a speaker on January 5. There’s no allegation he entered the door of the Capitol, though at a time when he was on the stairs, he was involved in attempting to take a shield from an officer and for that got charged with civil disorder (in addition to the standard trespass crimes). He obviously could be charged with obstruction, but that hasn’t been charged yet.

Last night, DOJ rolled out a conspiracy indictment that alleges that Alan Hostetter, another of the speakers on January 5, conspired with five other Three Percenters to “corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, to wit: the Certification of the Electoral College vote.”

The indictment is slightly different than the other conspiracies charged against militias thus far (and therefore may be yet another degree more vulnerable to challenge), insofar as it charges 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k), the conspiracy charge tied to obstruction, rather than conspiracy itself 18 U.S.C. §371. Plus, just one of the accused defendants — Erik Warner — managed to enter the Capitol (another, Russell Taylor, chose not to enter because he didn’t want to do so while armed), so even the trespassing charges may be more vulnerable to challenge. Two of the men — Derek Kinnison and Warner — are also charged with obstruction for trying to delete the Telegram chat they used for organizational purposes.

But if this indictment withstands legal challenge, it is in some ways far more provocative than the existing militia conspiracies. That’s because it’s not just a militia conspiracy indictment.

The indictment is a hybrid: one that charges a group that is both a militia, the Three Percenters, but also men who played an organizational role in the larger event via an anti-mask turned into election conspiracy group, the American Phoenix Project. The conspiracy language of the indictment repeatedly describes the men flashing their Three Percenter signs or otherwise identifying themselves as such.

KINNISON attached a picture of himself, MARTINEZ, and WARNER with the following message: “From left to right, I’m Derek aka midnightrider the short guy, Tony aka blue collar patriot, Erik aka silvir surfer…. We are 3 percent so cal. Also coming with us is redline Ron [MELE].” In the photo, all three are flashing a hand signal that designates affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

[snip]

On January 2, 2021, KINNISON, MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ met at MELE’S house in Temecula, California. Before leaving in the SUV, the four men posed for a photograph in which they all made a hand gesture signaling affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

[snip]

MELE, MARTINEZ, KINNISON, and WARNER also congregated on the National Mall and posed for a photo there. In the photo, MARTINEZ, KINNISON, and WARNER made a hand signal showing affiliation with a Three Percenter group.

But the indictment also describes how Hostetter formed the Phoenix Project as an anti-mask group and then used it to sow violence against those who supported the democratic result of the 2020 election.

In Spring, 2020, ALAN HOSTETTER (“HOSTETTER”) founded the American Phoenix Project to oppose government-mandated restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. After the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, HOSTETTER, RUSSELL TAYLOR (“TAYLOR”), and PERSON ONE used the American Phoenix Project to support former President Donald J. Trump and protest what they asserted was a stolen or fraudulent election result. TAYLOR and PERSON ONE became directors of the American Phoenix Project in the Fall of 2020.

From at least in and around November 2020, HOSTETTER used the American Phoenix Project as a platform to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals that supported the 2020 presidential election results.

It describes how in a post on November 27, Hostetter demanded that “tyrants and traitors need to be executed.” It explains that at a rally in Huntington Beach on December 12, Hostetter gave a speech calling for executions.

The enemies and traitors of America both foreign and domestic must be held accountable. And they will. There must be long prison terms, while execution is the just punishment for the ringleaders of this coup.

This demand for long prison terms may come back to haunt Hostetter if he is ever sentenced for his attack on America.

Because of its hybrid structure, I suspect this indictment may serve as a node to connect other conspiracies together. Obviously, we should expect to see parallel Three Percenter conspiracies. Given how Guy Reffitt’s known actions that day parallel those of these conspirators, and given what prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said in a status hearing for Reffitt the other day, I would be unsurprised if the superseding indictment Nestler said was imminent was a conspiracy of the Texas Three Percenters Reffitt was organizing.

I also expect that some of the 30 other people described to have taken part in the The California-DC Brigade Telegram chat described in this indictment to be charged in their own conspiracy indictment.

This group will serve as the Comms for able bodied individuals that are going to DC on Jan 6. Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.

The indictment makes it clear that these Three Percenter defendants coordinated with other members of the DC Brigade using a coordinated radio channel, 142.422 on the day of the insurrection; they were conspiring with others, in addition to each other.

On the Telegram chat, Taylor explicitly talked about coming to DC armed.

I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing and plates as well.

Importantly, some of these other people from SoCal did engage in assault, and given Hostetter’s public statements plus the mention of “willing[ness] to fight” in this Telegram description and Taylor’s mention of weapons, the Three Percenter conspirators may be implicated by association in their violence (which, along with weapons charges that have not been charged, could serve as inducements for members of this conspiracy to flip).

So I believe this indictment will link in conspiracies with other Three Percenters and with other Southern Californian anti-maskers.

But the role of the rallies in the indictment is even more intriguing.

Hostetter set up an earlier organizational Telegram chat on November 10. It was used to plan travel to DC for the November Million MAGA March as well as the January 6 insurrection. In the language describing the overt acts in this conspiracy, the indictment focuses closely on posts and other events starting on December 19. It linked Trump’s Tweet calling for “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” It describes an Instagram post Hostetter posted under the Phoenix Project moniker the same day, calling for people to join him. It describes that Hostetter and Taylor reserved rooms in a Kimpton Hotel on December 20, earlier planning than many of the Oath Keepers. It describes how Taylor renamed the Telegram chat to “The Californian Patriots–Answer the Call Jan 6” on December 20.

Then, having tied the travel of these organizers of a network of radicalized Southern California Trump supporters to Trump’s call on December 20, the indictment describes that this group got booked to speak at the January 5 rally.

On December 30, 2020, KINNISON sent a text message to MELE, WARNER, and MARTINEZ in which he attached a flyer advertising the January 5, 2021 rally outside the Supreme Court, at which TAYLOR, HOSTETTER, and PERSON ONE were named speakers for the American Phoenix Project.

The indictment doesn’t describe how this happened, though the government obviously has enough comms to have some insight into it.

Then, that same day, December 30, Taylor posted his plans for the days of January 5 and 6. His post stated a clear plan to work with Stop the Steal to surround the Capitol.

Spread the word to other CALIFORNIA Patriots to join us as we March into the Capitol Jan 6. The Plan right now is to meet up at two occasions and locations: 1. Jan 5th 2pm at the Supreme Court steps for a rally. (Myself, Alan, [and others] will be speaking) 2. Jan 6th early 7am meet in front of the Kimpton George Hotel…we will leave at 7:30am shart and March (15 mins) to the Capital [sic] to meet up with the stop the steal organization and surround the capital. [sic] There will be speakers there and we will be part of the large effort for the “Wild Rally” that Trump has asked us all to be part of. [my emphasis]

This plan is structurally the foundation in the indictment for the leadership role these men played in the SoCal contingent of anti-maskers. For example, the next section describes how just after this post, the men created the DC Brigade chat, including its calls for anti-maskers from Southern California to come to DC armed to and expecting a fight.

DOJ has been working on this indictment for six months. That’s still lightning fast for a conspiracy indictment, but unlike the other militia conspiracies, it has not been jury-rigged together as one after another co-conspirators’ phones get exploited.

And what it does, at a minimum, is to tie the anti-mask community in Southern California into a network with the Three Percenters.

More importantly, it suggests the organizing surrounding the rally on January 5 included a premeditated plan to surround the Capitol on January 6.

On January 6, Look to the Continuances

Riley June Williams — the woman with ties to the far right who was shown on video directing people around the Capitol and is accused of abetting the theft of Nancy Pelosi’s laptop — has not yet been indicted. Normally, the Speedy Trial Act gives prosecutors a limit of time — roughly 30 days — to formally charge you after you’re arrested. But with Williams, the government has been using a series of motions to extend this timeline. They currently have until July 21 to indict Williams.

That, by itself, isn’t all that unusual. But amid an ongoing conversation about whether the January 6 investigation will hold the most powerful accountable for the insurrection, I want to point to the existing long unindicted defendants to suggest, again, we don’t really know where this investigation is going.

Tracking which January 6 defendants haven’t been indicted is one way to identify cases that might be more interesting than others. Jon Schaffer’s case got continued for months leading up to his entry into a cooperation agreement on April 16. And Christopher Kelly’s case got continued for months before the government moved to dismiss it on June 1. At least some of these weren’t the boilerplate unopposed motions for a continuance, citing the unprecedented challenge of assembling all the evidence in this case, that have been used in most defendants cases; they were more specific requests for more time to conduct the investigation. As the disparate fate of these two men suggests, you can’t really tell what is interesting about a case if the formal charging is delayed.

But such non-boilerplate continuances are one thing I track (and I know other journalists do too) for potentially interesting cases. They happen in formally charged cases, too (for example, QAnoner Doug Jensen’s case got continued until tomorrow in such a fashion after prosecutors enhanced his own legal exposure). But it is easier to track the especially interesting delays in cases, like Williams’, where the defendant hasn’t been indicted yet.

To be sure, such continuances don’t guarantee a case will be interesting. A number of these cases end up in delayed felony charges (though that’s true of the boilerplate continuances as well). Sometimes these delays are attributable to delays in attorneys getting approved to represent defendants in the DC District. In several cases, such continuances were used when either the defendant or their lawyer got COVID. Sometimes, it even seems like the system has lost defendants (with just a handful of exceptions, thankfully not those being detained). There are a couple of defense attorneys and a couple of prosecutors who just seem to like doing it this way.

Often, lawyers attribute the delay to plea discussions (though that’s generally the reason for the unopposed continuances, as well as the consent ones).

Sometimes something else seems to be going on. For example, Prosecutor Brandi Harden has twice gotten continuances in the case of Emanuel Jackson, the developmentally challenged homeless man who walked into the middle of the insurrection off the street and was handed a baseball bat which he used to assault cops, with the explanation, “There are outstanding issues related to Mr. Jackson’s case, that the parties are continuing to address.”

In several cases, such continuances seem to tie to a defendant’s other existing legal problems. For example, Bryan Betancur violated probation by lying about his purposes for going to DC on January 6, and so has been thrown back in jail because of it (though Betancur’s friend, Britney Dillon, was recently charged in the riot). In another example, when the FBI searched Adam Honeycutt’s home in association with this January 6 arrest warrant, they found guns and marijuana that exposed him to charges in Florida; DC prosecutors are delaying his January 6 prosecution until after a trial this week on the possession charges in Florida. But in at least one of those cases — that of Kash Kelly, charged with just misdemeanor trespassing — the delay comes with a defendant who was discussed in a conversation involving Rudy Giuliani and who cooperated against his fellow gang members in his drug-related prosecution in Illinois. The fact that Ryan Samsel’s then girlfriend, Raechel Genco, has had her own trespassing case continued, makes his more intriguing, though there’s a long list of reasons that readily explain why Samsel’s prosecution has been delayed, not least that he was brutally beaten by someone yet to be determined while he in the DC jail.

All that said, I wanted to point to some clusters that may suggest future developments. An easy one are the cases of Emily Hernandez, her uncle William Merry, and their friend Paul Westover all of which have been delayed with continuances. They traveled to insurrection together and show up in pictures showing off the piece of a sign from Nancy Pelosi’s office they stole.

It would be unsurprising to see these cases get combined into a conspiracy, possibly with others from St. Louis.

That said, a goodly number of defendants awaiting formal charges were in Pelosi’s office, including Williams.

Along with Williams, there are others, like Anthime Gionet, who have known ties with America First or were in the vicinity of others self-identifying as America First who are also awaiting their charges.

Then there’s the case of Brandon Straka. He’s the head of the Walkaway campaign, and was a speaker on January 5. There’s no allegation he entered the door of the Capitol, though at a time when he was on the stairs, he was involved in attempting to take a shield from an officer and for that got charged with civil disorder (in addition to the standard trespass crimes). He obviously could be charged with obstruction, but that hasn’t been charged yet. On May 24, the parties asked for a continuance and excludable delay until August, but Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather hasn’t yet issued an order approving that. (There’s one other person that engaged in higher level organizing, but I suspect it’s the choice of her attorney.)

Update: This morning Judge Meriweather signed the Straka continuance.

Update: Doug Jensen wants to go work while he awaits resolution of his case (specifically mentioning self-surrender) so he settle his affairs and take care of his family.