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Felipe Marquez’ Plugged-In Misdemeanor Guilty Plea

Seven January 6 defendants are known to have pled guilty on Friday:

  • (Reportedly, though it hasn’t been docketed yet) Terry Brown, the last of a group of people arrested in the Capitol Visitor’s Center the day of the riot to plead out
  • Brandon Harrison and Douglas Wangler, who traveled to DC from Illinois together and, after Trump’s rally, walked to the Capitol and entered the East door after the Oath Keepers had already done so; they saw a pile of wood on the floor when they entered
  • Brandon and Stephanie Miller, an Ohio couple who bragged about witnessing history on Facebook
  • Cleveland Meredith Jr, who showed up — armed, but late — to insurrection but made credible threats against Nancy Pelosi (and did something else that remains sealed)
  • Felipe Marquez, who drove his Tesla Model 3 from Miami and claimed while inside the Capitol that, “we only broke some windows”

The Meredith plea — the only one that wasn’t a misdemeanor trespassing plea — was pretty interesting because his prosecutors still haven’t revealed the substance of some sealed filings that will be taken into consideration at sentencing. Plus, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was threatened by Roger Stone and some Proud Boys two years before they teamed up to set off an attack on the Capitol, seemed unimpressed with Meredith’s claims that his threats against Pelosi weren’t all that serious.

But the Marquez plea may be more interesting over time. At the very least, that’s because he may mark a decision by DOJ to let edge obstruction defendants plead down to 18 USC 1752, the more serious of the two misdemeanor trespassing charges.

As I’ve laid out repeatedly, DOJ has used 18 USC 1512(c)(2), part of the crime of obstruction, to charge those who allegedly expressed the clear intent to prevent the vote certification with a felony. Upwards of 200 people, total, have been charged with obstruction, including Marquez. But among those charged with obstruction, there’s a great range of actions taken on January 6. Those charged include those who participated in a conspiracy — like Graydon Young and Josiah Colt, Jacob Chansley, who left ominous comments for Mike Pence on his dais seat and blew off repeated orders to vacate the Senate Chamber, and Paul Hodgkins, who brought his Trump flag to the Senate floor but left when the cops instructed him to.

I laid out here how Hodgkins, after he was the first to plead guilty, was sentenced to 8 months in prison after getting a three level enhancement for significantly obstructing the vote certification. But since that happened, at least ten different defendants have challenged this application of obstruction, posing difficult decisions for a number of judges.

Indeed, in the last several days, a number of defendants charged with obstruction have explicitly waived Speedy Trial rights to await the outcome of these challenges. That’s going to create a backlog in the already enormous logjam of January 6 defendants.

So I wonder whether DOJ will begin let the edge 1512 cases plead down to 1752. Particularly given judges’ apparent willingness to jail the misdemeanor defendants, for defendants not given a “significant obstruction” enhancement like Hodgkins got, the sentencing guideline is not that different, with up to a year available under 1752 (and probation after that), versus a range of 8 to 14 months on obstruction (that in reality might be closer to 3 to 8 months). The primary (but nevertheless significant) difference would be the felony conviction.

To be clear, Marquez is not the first to plead down like this. Eliel Rosa pled to the less serious trespass charge, 40 USC 5104 after being charged with obstruction, but there may have been evidentiary reasons DOJ agreed to do that, and as an immigrant from Brazil, he risks deportation after his sentence in any case. Karl Dresch was charged with obstruction but pled to 5104 after serving six months in pre-trial confinement. Kevin Cordon, who was charged with obstruction but pled guilty at the same time as his brother — who was charged only with trespassing — pled to 1752 instead of obstruction, just like Marquez did.

In other words, in cases where there are other circumstances that make such a plea worthwhile to DOJ, they’re certainly willing to consider it.

Still, it’s possible that Marquez represents a shift on DOJ’s part to do that for more defendants, as part of an effort to avoid a big backlog pending the review of the 1512 charge.

Or, maybe not.

There were several other details of Marquez’ plea hearing of interest. The hearing started by talking about some kind of pretrial violation (possibly some kind of non-arrest run-in with law enforcement), which led to two new conditions being added to Marquez’s release, a mental health evaluation and a specific requirement to alert the government of any contact with law enforcement. That’s not how plea hearings usually start, but AUSA Jeffrey Nestler reaffirmed that DOJ wanted to go forward anyway. Judge Rudolph Contreras even asked whether the request for mental health evaluation raised questions about Marquez’ competency to plead guilty, though neither his attorney, Cara Halverson, nor Nestler, had any concerns about that.

Nestler, by the way, is one of the key prosecutors on the omnibus Oath Keeper case, and ably defended DOJ’s application of obstruction in that case in a hearing on Wednesday. Aside from that large group and cooperating Oath Keeper witness Caleb Berry, the only other January 6 case, besides Marquez’, that he is prosecuting is that of Guy Reffitt, who has ties to the 3%ers.

In addition to the oddities in Marquez’ plea hearing, there’s something not in his plea agreement that is standard boilerplate for all the plea agreements thus far: a cooperation paragraph. That paragraph is not a full cooperation agreement; rather, it simply requires the defendant to agree to be debriefed by the FBI. Here’s how it appears in Cordon’s plea agreement down from obstruction to 1752.

Your client agrees to allow law enforcement agents to review any social media accounts operated by your client for statements and postings in and around January 6, 2021, and conduct an interview of your client regarding the events in and around January 6, 2021 prior to sentencing.

Its absence suggests that Marquez has already been debriefed. Indeed, an April motion to continue the case described that the evidence against Marquez included, “social media data, cell phone extraction data, as well as custodial interview files,” suggesting he was interviewed on his arrest.

That Marquez may have already provided truthful information is of interest because he spent part of the riot in Jeff Merkley’s office. His statement of offense describes his actions there obliquely:

While inside the Capitol, Marquez entered the private “hideaway” office of Senator Merkley where he sat at a conference table with other rioters.

His arrest affidavit describes a video Marquez posted to Snapchat from his time there.

3:45 to 4:11 – This clip is from inside a conference room.2 Several people are seated and standing around a mahogany table. Some people say, “No stealing; don’t steal anything.” At 4:02, a hand is visible, holding a light-tan colored vape pen similar to the one MARQUEZ was holding in the car in the clip from 0:54 to 1:54. At 4:04, someone pushes over a table lamp and says, “Why would I want to steal this bullshit.”

4:11 to 4:20 (end) – In this clip MARQUEZ turns the camera lens to film himself. He is wearing a red “KEEP AMERICA GREAT” hat and has a yellow gaiter around his neck, similar to what he was wearing in the earlier clip from 0:54 to 1:54. MARQUEZ appears to still be indoors, with a distinctive blue piece of artwork – the same as seen in Senator Merkley’s hideaway office – on the wall behind him. This is a screenshot of MARQUEZ’s face from the video:

2 Based upon conversations with representatives of the United States Capitol Police, the conference room in which MARQUEZ is present appears to be Senate room S140, the private “hideaway” office of Senator Merkley within the U.S. Capitol. The artwork visible on the walls of the conference room in MARQUEZ’s Snapchat video is also visible on a video that Senator Merkley posted to Twitter on January 6, 2021, at 11:36 pm, documenting some of the damage to his office.

Still, none of these descriptions reveals what Marquez might have seen (and subsequently shared) while in Merkley’s office.

Presumably partly because there’s little to no security footage of what went down, the investigation into what happened in Merkley’s office is one of the most interesting subplots of the investigation. There have been a number of trespassers who seem to have been arrested just to get their footage of what happened.  There’s a defendant who has never been charged who was, nevertheless, given discovery on the laptop that got stolen from Merkley’s office. And in the last few weeks, Brandon Fellows (who like Marquez has been charged with just obstruction but spent time in Merkley’s office) got a CIPA notice, meaning the government wants to use classified evidence against him.

In short, we simply don’t know. There’s something interesting about this plea. But it’s unclear what that is.

How Jacob Chansley Proved Patrick LeDuc Right

I have written repeatedly about how charging January 6 rioters with obstruction provides DOJ a really elegant way of holding people accountable, while providing the flexibility to distinguish between different levels of seriousness (until such time as some judge overturns this application of 18 USC 1512).

A review of what has happened with five men who’ve pled guilty to obstruction so far illustrates not only the range of sentences possible from the same charge, but also the factors DOJ is using to distinguish defendants based on their actions on January 6.

Before I lay out what has happened, first a word of explanation: To get to sentences, the two sides in a plea deal first agree on a  “Estimated Offense Level,” then (if someone pleads guilty), knocks a few points (usually 3) off for pleading. That gives a number that gets plugged into the Sentencing Table to figure out the guidelines sentence, in months, based on whether someone has a criminal record.

So in what follows, I’m showing the initial calculation (before the 3 points taken off for pleading guilty), and then showing what the plea agreement says the guidelines will be. In the table, I’ve marked the four different guidelines calculated in the five cases I discuss here (Scott Fairlamb has some criminal background so may get bumped up a level, but the others have no criminal background).

Paul Hodgkins, who traveled alone to bring his Trump flag to the floor of the Senate, pled guilty to obstruction, and went into sentencing facing a 15 to 21-month sentence (and ultimately got an 8-month sentence).

The number you’ll see Patrick LeDuc mention — 14 — in an email below is obtained by knocking 3 points off 17. And the 15-21 months is taken by checking the “0” criminal record column for an offense level of 14.

Scott Fairlamb. who didn’t plan for insurrection but while there punched a cop, pled guilty to obstruction and assault and goes into sentencing facing 41 to 51 months. DOJ has reserved the right to invoke a terrorist enhancement (including in his plea colloquy) that, if Judge Lamberth agreed, could result in a far stiffer sentence, up to 10 years.

Josiah Colt, who planned his trip to DC with two others, came to DC armed, and rappelled onto the Senate floor, pled guilty to obstruction, but faces (before getting credit for cooperation) 51 to 63 months.

Graydon Young, who planned in advance with a militia, entered the Capitol as part of a Stack, and tried to destroy evidence, pled guilty to obstruction, but faces (before getting credit for cooperation) 63 to 78 months. The difference in guideline between him and Colt is not that Colt’s “militia” was disorganized (a couple of guys he met online), but rather that Young tried to destroy evidence. Otherwise, they’re the same.

These four men all pled guilty to the same crime, obstruction of the vote count, but all faced and are facing dramatically different sentences based on the context of what they had done. And for those who deliberately used violence in pursuit of obstruction could face longer sentences, up to 20 years, which happens to be the same sentence that some sedition-related charges carry, but (again, unless judges overturn this application of obstruction) would be far easier to prove to a jury.

Somewhere around 200 January 6 defendants have been charged with obstruction, but among those 200, there’s a great range of actions they took in their alleged effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, including:

  • How obstructive their actions were (a 3 point enhancement)
  • Whether they used violence or threats thereof (an 8 point enhancement)
  • Whether they planned in advance to obstruct the vote count (a 2 point enhancement)
  • Whether they engaged in further obstruction (a further 2 point enhancement)
  • Whether someone did or abetted more than $1,000 in damage to the Capitol (which will likely get a terrorism enhancement)

And this is an issue that will play out in Paul Hodgkins’ effort to appeal his sentence.

According to claims made in court, Hodgkins decided to admit his guilt early on, which led to him being the first person to plead guilty to that obstruction charge. His lawyer at the time was a guy named Patrick LeDuc, a JAG Reserve Officer who learned after he started representing Hodgkins he had to deploy to the Middle East. Immediately after he was sentenced to a below guidelines sentence, per representations a new lawyer has now made, he asked if he could appeal (Friday, Judge Randolph Moss granted his request to extend his time to appeal). What LeDuc said in response will likely be the matter of a legal fight. We do know that on August 21, LeDuc told Hodgkins, “You have no right to appeal the sentenced [sic] pursuant to our plea agreement,” which suggests that at that point, LeDuc understood Hodgkins’ complaint to be with the sentence, not the competence of his representation.

But we know, for sure, that LeDuc told Carolyn Stewart, Hodgkins’ new lawyer, that other January 6 defendants who made it to the Senate floor were going to be charged with more enhancements to the base obstruction charge than Hodgkins.

Here is what you should know. Capitol Hill Defendants found in the Senate are all being offered a felony (same as Paul)(some more than one felony) with an 8 level enhancement (you might consider obtaining a Federal Sentencing manual for your reference). I was able to get the DOJ to agree to only a 3 level enhancement. You ought to know that my plea deal was adopted at the highest level to include the AG of the United States. That meant that my client was at level 14 instead vice level 19. Other Capitol Hill defendant [sic] are looking at 46 months low end. The AG instructed AUSA Sedky to argue for mid range – 18 months. And you would suggest that is evidenced [sic] of malpractice. I would argue that an attorney of 6 months accusing an attorney with over 250 jury trials at both the State and Federal level, and with 30 years of experience is unprofessional on your part.

If you think the plea deal was insufficient, then you ought to know that the United States makes offers with a a [sic] take it or leave it attitude. Everything in the plea deal was boilerplate with one exception that did not bother me. That was a provision that required me to agree that level 14 was good to go and that I would not object to the PSR. I was allowed to argue for a variance under 3553, which was my strategy all along, and the judge did indeed vary 3 levels into ZONE B. Ms. Sedky is a very experienced prosecutor, and the plea deal was arranged over many lengthy phone calls over a period of 3 months. Being the first felony case to be resolved was something that DOJ had to concur in because my case was going to set the precedent for every one to follow and the stakes were high for both sides.

My strategy paid off to Paul’s benefit. No other Federal defendant who is pleading to a felony will get a sentence better than Paul (nearly 250 others)  We had a very good judge who understood the issues, and the sentence was a fair reflection of the fats.

LeDuc is obviously furious at being called incompetent (and writing from Qatar where he is also juggling a huge influx of refugees from Afghanistan). But in this passage he describes a lot of the background to the plea deals that was evident to those  of us following closely, but for which there had been only off the record confirmation.

I think things may intervene that change DOJ’s plans (particularly if any of the challenges to 1512 are successful). But LeDuc describes that the plan when he was involved was to give Hodgkins a good deal and then use that as the precedent for everyone else. With other judges an 8-month sentence may not actually be the floor, but it is the base level treatment DOJ thinks it will adopt for those charged with felonies.

We’ve seen a few people plead down from felonies to 18 USC 1752, but thus far those people are looking at close to the same sentence as Hodgkins, 6 months, a difference of 2 months and the onerous felony conviction.

One thing LeDuc did say is that other defendants who made it to the Senate floor will face 8 level enhancements. Again, I’m virtually certain there will be others who made it to the Senate that will avoid this treatment.

But yesterday, with Jacob Chansley’s sentence, LeDuc was proven correct: another defendant, with whom Hodgkins stormed the Senate floor, got an 8 point enhancement for doing so.

.

Note that, as with Fairlamb, the government reserved the right to ask for a terrorist enhancement, though I did not hear AUSA Kimberly Paschall make a record of that in yesterday’s plea hearing, as AUSA Leslie Goemaat did in Fairlamb’s plea hearing.

To be sure, Chansley’s Statement of Offense includes multiple things that weren’t present with Hodgkins (nor will they be present for some others who made it to the Senate floor). According to his sworn Statement of Offense, Chansley defied orders from Officer KR four different times, and made public and written comments while in the Senate that might be deemed a threat, including to Mike Pence personally.

11. At approximately 2:16 p.m., the defendant and other rioters ascended the stairs to the second floor to the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol building. In a clearing on the second floor, the defendant and other rioters were met by a line of U.S. Capitol Police officers, instructing them to peacefully leave the building. The defendant challenged U.S. Capitol Police Officer K.R. to let them pass, ultimately using his bullhorn to rile up the crowd and demand that lawmakers be brought out.

12. Instead of obeying the instructions of the U.S. Capitol Police to leave the building, the defendant traversed another staircase to the third floor of the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol building. At approximately 2:52 p.m., the defendant entered the Gallery of the Senate alone. The defendant then proceeded to scream obscenities in the Gallery, while other rioters flooded the Chamber below.

13. The defendant then left the Gallery and proceeded down a staircase in an attempt to gain entry to the Senate floor. There, the defendant once again encountered Officer K.R., who once again asked him to leave the building. The defendant insisted that others were already on the Senate floor and he was going to join them. Officer K.R. then followed the defendant on to the Senate floor.

14. The defendant then scaled the Senate dais, taking the seat that Vice President Mike Pence had occupied less than an hour before. The defendant proceeded to take pictures of himself on the dais and refused to vacate the seat when Officer K.R., the lone law enforcement officer in the Chamber at the time, asked him to do so. Instead, the defendant stated that “Mike Pence is a fucking traitor” and wrote a note on available paper on the dais, stating “It’s Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!”

15. After Officer K.R. again asked the defendant to vacate the seat, the defendant remained, calling other rioters up to the dais and leading them in an incantation over his bullhorn, which included giving thanks for the opportunity “to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the communists, and the globalists, that this is our nation, not theirs, that we will not allow America, the American way of the United States of America to go down.” The defendant went on to say “[t]hank you for allowing the United States to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists, and the traitors within our government.”

16. Finally, at approximately 3:09 p.m., other law enforcement officers arrived to support Officer K.R., and cleared the defendant and other rioters from the Chamber. [my emphasis]

While it’s a puzzle to compare who posed more of a threat, Scott Fairlamb or Jacob Chansley, DOJ is treating both as people who deliberately tried to prevent the vote count by using violence or threats thereof. And because of that, DOJ has gotten their attorneys to agree, they should face a sentence more than twice as long as Hodgkins faced.

And that’s precisely what Patrick LeDuc told Hodgkins’ new lawyer would happen.

Update: I’ve corrected that these are the only five men who’ve pled guilty to obstruction. Some other Oath Keepers also did.

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.

How a Trump Prosecution for January 6 Would Work

Jeffrey Toobin wrote a shitty piece arguing — seemingly based exclusively on Trump’s request to Jeffrey Rosen to delegitimize the election results in Georgia and Trump’s January 6 speech — that Merrick Garland should not prosecute Trump.

Toobin’s piece sucks for the same reason that all the mirror image articles written by TV lawyers, the ones explaining how DOJ might prosecute Trump, also suck: because none exhibit the least familiarity with how DOJ is approaching January 6, much less what allegations it has already made in charging documents. They are, effectively, nothing more than throwing a bunch of laws at the wall to see whether any stick (and in Toobin’s estimation, none do).

Almost none of these TV lawyers engage with how DOJ is applying obstruction as the cornerstone of its January 6 prosecutions. For example, Toobin considers whether Trump obstructed justice, but he only analyzes whether, when, “Trump encouraged the crowd to march to Capitol Hill but he did not explicitly encourage violence,” Trump obstructed the vote certification. Of around 200 January 6 defendants charged with obstruction, I can think of few if any against whom obstruction has been charged based solely on their actions on the day of the riot, and Trump is not going to be the exception to that rule. As with other January 6 defendants, DOJ would rely on Trump’s words and actions leading up to the event to prove his intent.

In this post, I want to lay out how a DOJ prosecution of Trump for January 6 would work. I’m not doing this because I’m sure DOJ will prosecute. I’m doing it to make the commentary on the question less insufferably stupid than it currently is.

Assumptions

The piece makes three assumptions.

First, it assumes that DOJ’s current application of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to cover the vote certification survives judicial review. It’s not at all clear it will, either because the courts (this will go to SCOTUS) don’t believe Congress intended to include Constitutionally-mandated official proceedings like the vote certification in a law covering official proceedings, because the courts will decide that rioters had no way of knowing that interrupting Constitutionally-mandated official proceedings was illegal, or because courts will decide that rioters (all of them, as opposed to one or another making a compelling case to a jury) did not have the requisite corrupt purpose. There are currently at least nine challenges to the application of the law (at least two more have been raised since Judge Randolph Moss had prosecutors put together this list). If TV lawyers want to argue about something, this might be a more productive use of their time than arguing about whether Trump can be prosecuted more generally, because the question doesn’t require knowing many actual facts from the investigation.

This piece also assumes that DOJ would apply two things they asserted in a filing pertaining to Mo Brooks to Trump as well. That filing said that the scope of federal office holder’s job excludes campaign activity, so any campaign activity a federal office holder engages in does not count as part of that person’s duties.

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).

DOJ also said that conspiring to attack your employer would not be included in a federal office holder’s scope of employment.

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).

These two principles, taken together, would get beyond some of the challenges involved in investigating someone covered by Executive Privilege and making orders as Commander-in-Chief. Importantly, it would make Trump’s activities in conjunction with the January 6 rally subject to investigation, whereas they broadly wouldn’t be if they were done in Trump’s official capacity.

Finally, if DOJ were to charge Trump, they would charge him in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count that intersected with some of the other conspiracies to obstruct the vote count, possibly with obstruction charges against him personally. In general, I don’t think DOJ would charge most of Trump’s discrete acts, at least those conducted before January 20, as a crime. There are two possible exceptions, however. His call to Brad Raffensperger, particularly in the context of all his other efforts to tamper in the Georgia election, would have been conducted as part of campaigning (and therefore would not have been conducted as President). It seems a clearcut case of using threats to get a desired electoral outcome. It’s unclear whether Trump’s request that Mike Pence to commit the unconstitutional action — that is, refusing to certify the winning electoral votes — would be treated as Presidential or electoral. But that demand, followed closely with Trump’s public statements that had the effect of making Pence a target for assassination threats, seems like it could be charged on its own. Both of those actions, however, could and would, in the way DOJ is approaching this, also be overt acts in the conspiracy charged against Trump.

The other conspiracies

If DOJ would only charge Trump in the context of a conspiracy to obstruct the vote (with whatever other charges added in) that intersects with some or all of the other conspiracies charged, it helps to understand what DOJ has done with those other conspiracies. Here’s what the currently charged conspiracies look like:

DOJ has been treating the multiple Proud Boy conspiracies as one (about which Ethan Nordean is complaining); I think they’re doing that — and excluding other key players who could be in one of the conspiracies, including all the most serious assaults committed by Proud Boy members — as a way to show how the cell structure used on the day worked together to serve a unified purpose, while also managing visibility on different parts of their ongoing investigation. For my purposes here, I’ll focus on the Leadership conspiracy, with the understanding that (notwithstanding Nordean’s complaints) DOJ credibly treats the others as the implementation of the conspiracy the Proud Boy Leaders themselves have laid out.

All of these conspiracies, as well as a disorganized militia conspiracy DOJ has been saying they’ll charge, share the same object: to stop, delay, or hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College win. Basically, all these conspiracies, as well as a hypothetical one that DOJ might use against Trump, would involve ensuring that he still had a route to remain in power, that he lived to fight another day. By themselves they did not involve a plan to remain in power (though Trump could be charged in a broader conspiracy attempting to do that, too).

They also all allege common Manners and Means (to be clear, these defendants are all presumed innocent and I’m speaking here of what DOJ claims it will prove). Those include:

  • Agreeing to plan and participate in an effort to obstruct the vote certification
  • Encouraging as many people as possible, including outside their own groups, to attend the operation
  • Funding the operation
  • Preparing to make participants in the operation as effective as possible, in all cases including communication methods and in most cases including some kind of defensive or offensive protections
  • Illegally entering the Capitol or its grounds and occupying that space during the period when Congress would otherwise have been certifying the vote

While all of those conspiracies follow the same model, there are some unique characteristics in four that deserve further mention:

Proud Boy Leaders Conspiracy: Operationally, those charged in the Proud Boy Leaders conspiracy managed to assemble a mob, including Proud Boy members (many organized in sub-cells like the Kansas City cell Billy Chrestman led), fellow travelers who met up and marched with the Proud Boys that morning, and those who knew to show up at 1PM (while Trump was still speaking). With apparent guidance from the charged co-conspirators, the Proud Boys managed to kick off the riot and — in the form of the Proud Boy Front Door co-conspirator Dominic Pezzola wielding a stolen shield — break into the building. Thus far (probably in part because Enrique Tarrio is not currently charged in this or any conspiracy), the government has been coy about what evidence it has of coordination with others, including at a December MAGA March in DC. Key planning steps, however, involve deciding not to show Proud Boy colors the day of the riot and fundraising to buy gear and support travel (Christopher Worrell got to DC on a bus paid for by the Proud Boys but that has not yet been charged in any conspiracy). On top of radios and blow horns, two Telegram channels — the larger of which had 60 members — appear to have played key roles in organizing events the day of the riot. To the extent that Proud Boys came armed, they appear to have done so individually, and thus far, DOJ has not included the worst assaults committed by Proud Boys in any of the conspiracies. Several of the charged co-conspirators started talking about war in the days and weeks after the election and those who gathered with the Proud Boys on the morning of the riot skipped Trump’s rally, making their focus on the vote certification much clearer than many others that day.

Oath Keeper Conspiracy: The indictment alleges this conspiracy started on November 9 with a plan both to use Antifa as a foil to excuse violence and in expectation that that violence would be Trump’s excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and/or respond to that call. The conspiracy used the promise of serving as security — both at the rally and for Roger Stone and other “dignitaries” — to recruit people to come to DC, and in fact a number of the charged co-conspirators were present with Stone the morning of the riot. In addition to kitting out in various Oath Keeper gear at different events on the day of the event, the militia had a serious stash of weapons at the Ballston Comfort Inn in case things did turn violent. The key thing, operationally, this conspiracy achieved was to provide organized brawn to an effort to open a second front to the attack via the East Door of the Capitol. The nominal head of this conspiracy, Florida State head Kelly Meggs, claimed to have set up an alliance with other militias in Florida (he first made the claim a day after the militia had provided “security” for Stone at an event in Florida). Over the course of the investigation, the government has also gotten closer to alleging that Meggs expressed the desire to and took steps to target Nancy Pelosi personally while inside the Capitol.

3%er Southern California Conspiracy: The men charged in this conspiracy — who occupy the overlap between 3%ers and the anti-mask community in Southern California — organized themselves and others to come armed to the Capitol. As alleged, they started organizing formally in explicit response to Trump’s December 19 advertisement for the event. Both online and in an appearance by Russell Taylor at the rally on January 5, they called for violence. They organized in advance via Telegram chat and on the day with radios. Operationally, these men personally participated in the fighting on the west side of the Capitol (most never went in the building but the government contends they were in restricted space outside). But from a larger standpoint, these men form one intersection between the more formal Trump organization behind the rallies and a group of radicalized Trump supporters from across the country.

Disorganized Conspiracy: You’ve likely never heard of Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave, nor should you have. Their conspiracy (DOJ has not yet charged it but has been planning to do so since April) started when Sandlin responded to Trump’s calls for people to attend the event on December 23 and started looking online to join up with others. “Who is going to Washington D.C. on the 6th of January? I’m going to be there to show support for our president and to do my part to stop the steal and stand behind Trump when he decides to cross the rubicon.” They’re an excellent example of a bunch of guys — along with Josiah Colt, who entered into a cooperation agreement against the other two — who got radicalized via a messy stew of ideologies online, armed themselves for insurrection, raised money and traveled to DC together planning for violence, and allegedly engaged in assaults at two key points inside the Capitol that allowed the occupation of the Senate chamber, and in Colt’s case, Mike Pence’s chair itself. Here’s a video of the two (in orange and all black) fighting to get into the Senate just released today:

Colt has admitted (and may have GoPro video showing) that the three went from learning that Pence had refused Trump’s demand — the government doesn’t say whether they learned this via Trump’s tweet — to forcibly occupying the Senate in response. So while you haven’t heard of them and they’re not members of an organized militia, they still played a tactically critical role in forcibly occupying the Capitol in direct response to Trump’s exhortations.

Questions

There are still a slew of questions about Trump’s actions that have — publicly at least — not been answered. Some that would be pertinent to whether he could be charged with conspiracy include:

  • When Trump said, “stand back and stand by” to the Proud Boys on September 29 — after they had already threatened a Federal judge to serve Trump’s interest, and whose threats had been dismissed by Bill Barr as a technicality — did he intend to signal some kind of relationship with the Proud Boys as the Proud Boys in fact took it to be? Was this part of an agreement to enter into a conspiracy?
  • When both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers started planning their January 6 operation in the days after the election, speaking already then of being called by the President to commit violence, was that based on any direct communications, or was it based on things like the earlier Proud Boys comment?
  • When Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who would later lead the operation on January 6 formed an alliance to keep Trump in office in December at an event with Roger Stone, was Stone involved?
  • What conversations did Trump and Stone have about his pardon even as these militia plans were being put in place?
  • What evidence does DOJ have about the Proud Boys’ decision — and their communication of that decision to at least 60 people — not to attend the Trump speech but instead to form a mob that would later march on the Capitol and lead the breach of it while Trump was still speaking?
  • Did Trump time the specific lines in his speech to the Proud Boys’ actions, which were already starting at the Capitol?
  • What orders were given to the Park Police about various crowd sizes and planned events that explains their failure to prepare?
  • Trump told Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller to use the National Guard to protect his protestors on January 3. On January 6, some Proud Boys expressed surprise that the Guard was not protecting them. Did the Proud Boys have reason to believe the Guard would not protect the Capitol but instead would protect them? Why was the Guard delayed 4 hours in responding? Why was there a 32 minute delay during a period when the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were considering a second assault in relaying an order from Miller to the Guard Commander who had the Guard in buses waiting to deploy? Did the militias call off their second assault based on advance information that the Guard was finally being deployed?
  • Both Rudy and Trump made calls to Members of Congress on January 6 making specific asks for delays at a time when the rioters had already breached the building. Did that include a request to Paul Gosar, and did that result in the delay in evacuating the House side that led to Ashli Babbitt’s death, which Gosar (and Trump) have been key figures in celebrating? Would DOJ be able to get either Gosar or Tuberville’s testimony (they already have the voice mail Rudy left for Tuberville, and because Rudy’s phones have otherwise been seized, if they can show probable cause they have access to anything on his phone).
  • Rudy had texts from a Proud Boy affiliate within 9 days after the riot about implementing a plan to blame it all on Antifa. That guy  had, in turn, been in contact with at least six people at the riot. Were they in contact before and during the riot? Again, DOJ has the phones on which Rudy conducted those conversations, and they happen to have his cell location for other purposes, so the question is do they have probable cause to get the same data for the Jan 6 operation?

What a Trump conspiracy might look like

Even without answers to those questions, however, there are a number of things that Trump did that might form part of a conspiracy charge against him (this timeline from Just Security has a bunch more, including magnifying threats from people who would later take part in the insurrection). The Manners and Means would mirror those that appear in all the charged conspiracies:

  • Agreeing (and ordering subordinates) to plan and participate in an effort to obstruct the vote certification
  • Encouraging the Proud Boys to believe they are his army
  • Personally sowing the Big Lie about voter fraud to lead supporters to believe Trump has been robbed of his rightful election win
  • Asking subordinates and Republican politicians to lie about the vote to encourage supporters to feel they were robbed
  • Encouraging surrogates and campaign staffers to fund buses to make travel to DC easier
  • Using the January 6 rally to encourage as many people as possible to come to DC
  • Applauding violence in advance of January 6 and tacitly encouraging it on the day
  • Recruiting members of Congress to raise challenges to the vote count
  • Asking members of Congress to delay evacuation even as the rioters entered the building, heightening the chance of direct physical threat (and likely contributing to Ashli Babbitt’s death)
  • Asking Mike Pence to do something unconstitutional, then targeting him after he refused, virtually ensuring he would be personally threatened
  • Possibly muddling the line of command on which civilian agency would coordinate response, ensuring there would be none
  • Possibly taking steps to delay any Guard response at the Capitol
  • Possibly ignoring immediate requests from help from leaders of Congress

DOJ knows exactly what happened with Trump’s requests that DOJ serve as the civilian agency to lead response on Janaury 6, and some of the witnesses have given transcribed interviews to Congress and probably DOJ IG. Some details about which there remain questions — who delayed the National Guard — would be available to subpoena. The big question, and it’s a big one, is what kind of communications Trump had with members of Congress to ensure there was maximal conflict and physical risk on that day.

But much of this, including the illegal request of Mike Pence and the specific targeting of him in the aftermath, which directly affected the actions of the disorganized conspiracy, are already public. Both the computer Enrique Tarrio brought to DC and Rudy’s phones have been accessible if DOJ wanted to obtain a warrant for them.

None of this addresses the complexities of whether DOJ would charge a former President. None of this guarantees that DOJ will get key charged defendants to flip, whose cooperation might be necessary to move higher in the conspiracy.

I’m not saying DOJ will charge Trump.

But if they were considering it, it’s most likely this is how they would do so.

Update: Per Quake’s suggestion I’ve added the funding of buses.

Update: Reuters reports that FBI has found “scant” evidence of central coordination in the attack, specifically naming Stone.

The Rebellion Rorschach: The Many Faces of the January 6 Investigation

Four different things happened yesterday to demonstrate how differently judges presiding over the January 6 trial view it, and how little they seem to understand the intersecting nature of this investigation.

DC Circuit ignores its own language about co-conspirators and abettors

The final event was the reversal, by a per curiam panel including Karen Henderson, Judith Rogers, and Justin Walker, of Thomas Hogan’s decision to hold George Tanios pretrial.

As a reminder, Tanios is accused of both conspiring and abetting in Julian Khater’s attack on three cops, including Brian Sicknick, with some toxic substance.

I’m not going to complain about Tanios’ release. By way of comparison, Josiah Colt has never been detained, and he pled out of a conspiracy with Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave in which they, like Tanios and Khater, planned to arm themselves before traveling to DC together, and in which Sandlin and DeGrave, like Khater, are accused of assaulting cops that played a key role in successfully breaching the Capitol. The main difference is that Khater’s attack injured the three officers he targeted using a toxic spray purchased by Tanios.

It’s how the DC Circuit got there that’s of interest. Tanios had argued that Hogan had used the same language from the Munchel decision everyone else does, distinguishing those who assault or abet in assaulting police which the DC Circuit has returned to in upholding detention decisions since, and in so doing had applied a presumption of detention for those accused of assault and abetting assault.

In assessing Tanios’s risk of danger, the District Court placed too much emphasis on this sentence from Munchel: “In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way.” Id. at 1284.

This is only one line in a ten-page opinion written by Judge Wilkins. It is dicta. It was not quoted or adopted by Judge Katsas’s separate opinion. This line does not create a new approach for evaluating detention issues in this Circuit. It does not mandate that defendants be placed in two separate categories. It does not require a separate, harsher treatment for defendants accused of specific violent offenses. Critically, it does not create a presumption of future dangerousness and should not create a presumption of detention. Rather, it seems that the line is merely intended to remind district court judges that violence is one factor to consider in making a determination about dangerousness. [my emphasis]

The DC Circuit specifically ruled against Tanios on his claim that Hogan had misapplied Munchel.

[A]ppellant has not shown that the district court applied a presumption of detention in contravention of the Bail Reform Act and precedent, see United States v. Khater, No. 21-3033, Judgment at *2 (D.C. Cir. July 27, 2021)

They had to! As their citation makes clear, just two weeks ago, a per curiam panel of Patricia Millet, Robert Wilkins, and Ketanji Brown Jackson upheld the very same detention order (which covered both defendants), holding that the same line of the Hogan statement that Tanios pointed to did not do what both Tanios and Khater claimed it had, presume that assault defendants must be detained.

Appellant contends that the district court misapplied our decision in United States v. Munchel, 991 F.3d 1273 (D.C. Cir. 2021), by making a categorical finding, based solely on the nature of the offense charged (assaultive conduct on January 6), that no conditions of release could ever mitigate the per se prospective threat that such a defendant poses. If the district court had proceeded in that fashion and applied some sort of non-rebuttable presumption of future dangerousness in favor of detention, it would have been legal error. See id. at 1283 (“Detention determinations must be made individually and, in the final analysis, must be based on the evidence which is before the court regarding the particular defendant. The inquiry is factbound.”) (quoting United States v. Tortora, 922 F.2d 880, 888 (1st Cir. 1990)). However, while the district court stated, “Munchel delineates an elevated category of dangerousness applied [to] those that fall into the category that necessarily impose a concrete prospective threat,” the district court also explained, “I think Munchel does not set a hard-line rule. I don’t think that the categories are solely determinative, but it creates something like a guideline for the Court to follow . . . .” Detention Hr’g Tr. at 42:21-24; 43:11-13, ECF No. 26 (emphasis added). In making its ruling, the district court discussed at length the facts of this case, and expressly noted that “we have to decide whether the defendant is too dangerous based upon that conduct to be released or is not,” “every circumstance is different in every case, and you have to look at individual cases,” and that “the government may well not overcome the concrete and clear and convincing evidence requirement.” Id. at 43:8-10, 43:16-18, 43:20-21. Based on our careful review of the record, we find that the district court made an individualized assessment of future dangerousness as required by the Bail Reform Act and that appellant has not shown that the district court applied an irrefutable presumption of mandatory detention in contravention of the statute and our precedent.

Yesterday’s panel cited the earlier affirmation of the very same opinion that detained Tanios.

It’s in distinguishing Tanios where the panel got crazy. The panel could have argued that the evidence that Tanios conspired with or abetted Khater’s assault was too weak to hold him — Tanios made a non-frivolous argument that in refusing to give Khater one of the two canisters of bear spray he carried, he specifically refused to join in Khater’s attack on the cops. But they don’t mention conspiracy or abetting charges.

Instead, the DC Circuit argued that Hogan clearly erred in finding Khater’s accused co-conspirator to be dangerous.

[T]he district court clearly erred in its individualized assessment of appellant’s dangerousness. The record reflects that Tanios has no past felony convictions, no ties to any extremist organizations, and no post-January 6 criminal behavior that would otherwise show him to pose a danger to the community within the meaning of the Bail Reform Act. Cf. Munchel, 991 F.3d at 1282-84 (remanding pretrial detention orders where the district court did not demonstrate it adequately considered whether the defendants present an articulable threat to the community in light of the absence of record evidence that defendants committed violence or were involved in planning or coordinating the events of January 6).

Munchel isn’t actually a precedent here, because that decision remanded for further consideration. The DC Circuit ordered Hogan to release Tanios. Crazier still, in citing the same passage from Munchel everyone else does, the DC Circuit edited out the language referring to those who abetted or conspired with those who assaulted cops, the language used to hold Tanios. It simply ignores the basis Hogan used to hold Tanios entirely, his liability in a premeditated attack he allegedly helped to make possible, and in so doing argues the very same attack presents a danger to the community for one but not the other of the guys charged in it.

If this were a published opinion, it would do all kinds of havoc to precedent on conspiracy and abetting liability. But with two short paragraphs that don’t, at all, address the basis for Tanios’ detention, the DC Circuit dodges those issues.

Beryl Howell has no reasonable doubt about January 6

Earlier in the day, DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell grew exasperated with another plea hearing.

This time, it was Glenn Wes Lee Croy, another guy pleading guilty to a misdemeanor “parading” charge. The plea colloquy stumbled on whether Croy should have known he wasn’t permitted on the Capitol steps — he claimed, in part, that because this was his first trip to DC, he didn’t know he shouldn’t have been on the steps, even in spite of the barricades. Croy was fine admitting he shouldn’t have been in the building, though.

Things really heated up when Howell started asking Croy why he was parading (Josh Gerstein has a more detailed description of this colloquy here).

Under oath, pleading to a misdemeanor as part of a deal that prohibits DOJ from charging Croy with anything further for his actions on January 6, he made some kind of admission that Howell took to mean he was there to support Trump’s challenge to the election, an admission that his intent was the same as the intent required to charge obstruction of the vote count.

When she quizzed AUSA Clayton O’Connor why Croy hadn’t been charged with felony obstruction for his efforts to obstruct the vote certification, the prosecutor explained that while the government agreed that contextually that’s what Croy had been doing, the government didn’t find direct evidence that would allow him to prove obstruction beyond a reasonable doubt, a sound prosecutorial decision.

O’Connor is what (with no disrespect intended) might be deemed a journeyman prosecutor on the January 6 cases. He has seven cases, five of which charge two buddies or family members. Of those, just Kevin Cordon was charged with the obstruction charge Howell seems to think most defendants should face, in Cordon’s case for explicitly laying out his intent in an interview the day of the riot.

We’re here to take back our democratic republic. It’s clear that this election is stolen, there’s just so much overwhelming evidence and the establishment, the media, big tech are just completely ignoring all of it. And we’re here to show them we’re not having it. We’re not- we’re not just gonna take this laying down. We’re standing up and we’re taking our country back. This is just the beginning.

O’Connor is prosecuting Clifford Mackrell and Jamie Buteau for assault and civil disorder. But otherwise, all his cases are trespass cases like Croy’s (including that of Croy’s codefendant Terry Lindsey).

This was the guy who, with no warning, had the task of explaining to the Chief Judge DOJ’s logic in distinguishing misdemeanor cases from felonies. Unsurprisingly, it’s all about what the government thinks they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, based on evidence like that which Cordon shared with a journalist or, just as often, what people write in their social media accounts. This process has made sense to the few of us who have covered all these cases, but like O’Connor, Howell is dealing primarily with the misdemeanor cases and my not see how DOJ appears to be making the distinction.

Howell also demanded an explanation from O’Connor in Croy’s sentencing memo why DOJ is not including the cost of the National Guard deployment in the restitution payments required of January 6 defendants.

Both according to its own prosecutorial guidelines and the practical limitations of prosecuting 560 defendants, DOJ can’t use a novel application of the obstruction statute to charge everyone arrested in conjunction with January 6 with a felony. It’s a reality that deserves a better, more formal explanation than the one O’Connor offered the Chief Judge extemporaneously.

Trevor McFadden believes a conspiracy to overthrow democracy is not a complex case

Meanwhile, the Discovery Coordinator for the entire investigation, Emily Miller, missed an opportunity to explain to Trevor McFadden the logic behind ongoing January 6 arrests.

In advance of a hearing for Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, prosecutor Janani Iyengar submitted a motion for a 60-day continuance to allow for the government to work through discovery. She brought Miller along to a status hearing to explain those discovery challenges to McFadden, who had complained about them in the past and refused to toll the Speedy Trial Act in this case. Because Iyengar recently offered Griffin a plea deal, his attorney Nick Smith was fairly amenable to whatever McFadden decided.

Not so the judge. He expressed a sentiment he has in this and other cases, that the government made a decision to start arresting immediately after the attack and continues to do so. “There seems to be no end in sight,” McFadden complained, suggesting that if DOJ arrested someone in three months who offered up exculpatory evidence that affected hundreds of cases, those would have to be delayed again. In spite of the fact that several prosecutors have explained that the bulk of the evidence was created on January 6, McFadden persists in the belief that the trouble with discovery is the ingestion of new evidence with each new arrest.

Miller noted that the government could start trials based on the Brady obligation of turning over all exculpatory evidence in their possession, so future arrests wouldn’t prohibit trials. The problem is in making the universe of video evidence available to all defense attorneys so they have the opportunity of finding evidence to support theories of defense (such as that the cops actually welcomed the rioters) that would require such broad review of the video.

McFadden then suggested that because Griffin is one of the rare January 6 defendants who never entered the Capitol, Miller’s team ought to be able to segregate out an imagined smaller body of evidence collected outside. “Were that it were so, your honor,” Miller responded, pointing out that there were thousands of hours of surveillance cameras collected from outside, the police moved in and outside as they took breaks or cleaned the bear spray from their eyes so their Body Worn Cameras couldn’t be segregated, and the Geofence warrant includes the perimeter of the Capitol where Griffin stood.

McFadden then said two things that suggested he doesn’t understand this investigation, and certainly doesn’t regard the attack as a threat to democracy (he has, in other hearings, noted that the government hasn’t charged insurrection so it must not have been one). First, he complained that, “In other cases,” the government had dealt with a large number of defendants by giving many deferred prosecutions or focusing just on the worst of the worst, a clear comparison to Portland that right wingers like to make. But that’s an inapt comparison. After noting the data somersaults one has to do to even make this comparison, a filing submitted to Judge Carl Nichols in response to a selective prosecution claim from Garret Miller explained the real differences between Portland and January 6: There was far less evidence in the Portland cases, meaning prosecutions often came down to the word of a cop against that of a defendant and so resulted in a deferred prosecution.

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.

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).

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. [my emphasis]

McFadden ended with one of his most alarming comments. He said something to the effect of, he doesn’t feel that the January 6 investigation was a complex type of case akin to those (often white collar cases) where a year delay before trial was not that unusual.

This was a fairly breathtaking comment, because it suggests that McFadden sees this event as the magical convergence of thousands of criminals at the Capitol rather than the result of a sustained conspiracy to get a mass of bodies to the building, a conspiracy that started at least as early as the days after the election. While McFadden’s highest profile January 6 case is a sprawling assault case against Patrick McCaughey and others (the one that trapped Officer Daniel Hodges in the Capitol door), this view seems not to appreciate some larger investigative questions pertinent to some of his other defendants. For example, what happened to the laptops stolen from various offices, including the theft that Brandon Fellows may have witnessed in Jeff Merkley’s office. Did America First engaged in a conspiracy to gets its members, including Christian Secor, to the Capitol (and did a huge foreign windfall that Nick Fuentes got days before the insurrection have anything to do with that). What kind of coordination, if any, led a bunch of Marines to successfully open a second front to the attack by opening the East Doors also implicates Secor’s case. One of the delays in Griffin’s own case probably pertained to whether he was among the Trump speakers, as members of the 3-Percenter conspiracy allegedly were, who tied their public speaking role to the recruitment of violent, armed rioters (given that he has been given a plea offer, I assume the government has answered that in the negative).

It has become increasingly clear that one of the visible ways that DOJ is attempting to answer these and other, even bigger questions, is to collect selected pieces of evidence from identifiable trespassers with their arrest. For example, Anthony Puma likely got arrested when he did because he captured images of the Golf Cart Conspiracy with his GoPro. He has since been charged with obstruction — unsurprisingly, since he spoke in detailed terms about preventing the vote certification in advance. But his prosecution will be an important step in validating and prosecuting the larger conspiracy, one that may implicate the former President’s closest associates.

This is white collar and complex conspiracy investigation floating on top of a riot prosecution, one on which the fate of our democracy rests.

Melody Steele-Smith evaded the surveillance cameras

A report filed yesterday helps to explain the import of all this. Melody Steele-Smith was arrested within weeks of the riot on trespass charges, then indicted on trespass and obstruction charges. She’s of particular interest in the larger investigation because — per photos she posted on Facebook — she was in Nancy Pelosi’s office and might be a witness to things that happened there, including the theft of Pelosi’s laptop.

At a hearing last week, the second attorney who has represented her in this case, Elizabeth Mullin, said she had received no discovery, particularly as compared to other January 6 defendants. So the judge in that case, Randolph Moss, ordered a status report and disclosure of discovery by this Friday.

That status report admits that there hasn’t been much discovery, in particular because, aside from the surveillance photos used in her arrest warrant, the government hasn’t found many images of Steele-Smith in surveillance footage.

The United States files this memorandum for the purpose of describing the status of discovery. As an initial matter, the government has provided preliminary discovery in this case. On or about June 4, 2021, the government provided counsel for defendant preliminary discovery in this matter. This production had been made previously to the defendant’s initial counsel of record. Counsel for defendant received the preliminary production that had been provided to previous counsel. This preliminary production included the FBI 302 of defendant’s sole interview, the recorded interview of defendant which formed the basis of the aforementioned FBI 302, over one thousand pages of content extracted from defendant’s Facebook account, and thirty-nine photographs confiscated from defendant’s telephone.

The government is prepared to produce an additional discovery production no later than August 13, 2021. The production will include additional items that have been obtained by the government from the FBI. These items include, additional FBI investigative reports and the Facebook search warrant dated January 21, 2021. The FBI has provided the government with the full extent of the materials in its possession. While these items are few in number, the government is continuing to review body worn camera footage in an attempt to locate the defendant. Camera footage will be provided if it is located. The government has been diligent in its efforts to obtain all discoverable items in possession of the FBI.

That still leaves a thousand Facebook pages and 39 photos, some of them taken at a key scene in the Capitol a scene that — given the evidence against Steele-Smith and in other cases — is a relative blind spot in the surveillance of the Capitol. The interview described here is not reflected in her arrest warrant, and so may include non-public information used to support the obstruction case.

Beryl Howell might argue this is sufficient evidence to prove the government’s obstruction case. Trevor McFadden might argue that this case can’t wait for more video evidence obtained from future arrestees of what Steele-Smith did while “storm[ing] the castle” (in her own words), including the office of the Speaker of the House. But the theft of the Pelosi laptop — including whether Groypers like Riley Williams were involved — remains unsolved.

If a single terrorist with suspect ties to foreign entities broke into the office of the Speaker of the House and stole one of her laptops, no one would even think twice if DOJ were still investigating seven months later. But here, because the specific means of investigation include prosecuting the 1,000 people who made that break-in possible, there’s a push to curtail the investigation.

I don’t know what the answer is because the Speedy Trial issues are very real, particularly for people who are detained. But I do know it’s very hard for anyone to get their mind around this investigation.

Scott Fairlamb Pled Guilty to Obstruction and Assault; Does That Amount to Terrorism?

Two January 6 assault defendants pled guilty yesterday, Scott Fairlamb and Devlyn Thompson, the first defendants to plead to assault. Here’s my live tweet of Fairlamb’s sentencing.

There’s a detail of those plea agreements that has not gotten the attention it deserves.

While both plea agreements (Fairlamb, Thompson) include the Estimated Guidelines sentence for the crimes the men pled to, both allow DOJ to request an upward departure for a terrorism enhancement. That means that, while the existing guidelines make it look like these men face around four years in prison, DOJ may come back and argue they should be sentenced to something closer to ten years. I wouldn’t be surprised if DOJ did so with Fairlamb.

Here’s how the sentencing works for Fairlamb, who pled guilty to assault and obstruction.

It starts with the math for both crimes. In both cases, Fairlamb faces an enhancement off base level charges. On the obstruction charge, Fairlamb got penalized for both his physical threats and engaging in substantial interference. On the assault charge, he got an enhancement for punching a cop, an official victim.

From there, Fairlamb gets two-plus-one-points off for pleading guilty.

That results an Estimated Offense Level of 22, based on the assumption the sentences will be served concurrently. Once you factor in Fairlamb’s past assault convictions, his Estimated Guidelines sentence is 41 to 51 months.

But!

There’s a big *but* in the plea deal. The plea deal lays out what each side can argue about next month when Fairlamb will be sentenced.

The parties agree that, solely for the purposes of calculating the applicable range under the Sentencing Guidelines, neither a downward nor upward departure from the Estimated Guidelines Range set forth above is warranted, except the Government reserves the right to request an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, n. 4. Except as provided for in the “Reservation of Allocution” section below, the parties also agree that neither party will seek any offense-level calculation different from the Estimated Offense Level calculated above in subsection A. However, the parties are free to argue for a Criminal History Category different from that estimated above in subsection B. [my emphasis]

Neither side will deviate from this math except that both sides can argue that Fairlamb’s past assaults result in a different criminal history category than used to calculate these guidelines. Since the guidelines calculated here are based off the lowest category, this can only work against Fairlamb going forward.

More importantly — as AUSA Leslie Goemaat made a point of noting explicitly for the record in yesterday’s sentencing — the government reserves the right to argue for an upward departure under U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4.

That’s a reference to a terrorism enhancement.

4. Upward Departure Provision.—By the terms of the directive to the Commission in section 730 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the adjustment provided by this guideline applies only to federal crimes of terrorism. However, there may be cases in which (A) the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct but the offense involved, or was intended to promote, an offense other than one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B); or (B) the offense involved, or was intended to promote, one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B), but the terrorist motive was to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, rather than to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. In such cases an upward departure would be warranted, except that the sentence resulting from such a departure may not exceed the top of the guideline range that would have resulted if the adjustment under this guideline had been applied.

This language allows the judge to bump that Offense Level up 12 points, up to but no further than 32.

Even assuming the government does not argue that Fairlamb’s criminal history category should be higher, that would still bump up his potential Guidelines Sentence — if the government were to choose to exercise this option and if Royce Lamberth were to agree that Fairlamb’s crimes were an attempt to influence the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion — to 121 to 151 months.

In other words, while the headlines are saying that Fairlamb could face a roughly 4-year sentence, if the government argues that his actions had a political motive and Judge Lamberth agrees, then in reality Fairlamb could be facing a 10-year sentence or more. And in Fairlamb’s case, he already pled to a crime, obstruction, that admits to that political purpose.

As part of Fairlamb’s Statement of Offense, he agreed under oath that,

When FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the Capitol building, armed with a police baton, he was aware that the Joint Session to certify the Electoral College results had commenced. FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the building and assaulted Officer Z.B. with the purpose of influencing, affecting, and retaliating against the conduct of government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion. FAIRLAMB admits that his belief that the Electoral College results were fraudulent is not a legal justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol building and using intimidating [sic] to influence, stop, or delay the Congressional proceeding.

That is, he already admitted his actions were intended to intimidate or coerce the government, the language required to invoke the terrorism enhancement.

Even if this application of the obstruction statute were thrown out (meaning his sentence would start at 17 instead of 22), if Judge Lamberth decided the terrorism enhancement applied, he could still face an 87 to 108 month sentence.

The government will not necessarily invoke this language. The terrorism enhancement language also appeared in Paul Hodgkins’ plea agreement, but AUSA Mona Sedky specifically noted at sentencing that the government was not invoking it in Hodgkins’ case.

The language does not appear in the five known cooperation pleas (Caleb Berry, Josiah Colt, Mark Grods, Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young). Indeed, as I’ve noted, by pleading their way out of the existing Oath Keeper conspiracy, Young and the other Oath Keepers also got out of the depredation of government property charge that is explicitly among those that can carry a terrorism enhancement. There appear to be at least three Proud Boys charged in conspiracies considering pleading, and I imagine they’d be looking at the same deal, a way out of being treated as a terrorist in exchange for their cooperation. For those willing to cooperate against their buddies, it seems, the government is willing to trade away the possibility of calling the person’s actions terrorism.

There has already been at least one case where a defendant’s lawyer described reluctance to accept a plea offer because it included this terrorism enhancement language. I would imagine the inclusion of this language in plea deals is one reason why so few defendants have taken pleas even when faced with abundant video evidence of their own crimes.

I likewise imagine that the government won’t argue for the enhancement in all cases where it appears in a plea (as noted, Sedky specifically declined to invoke it with Hodgkins).

But in Fairlamb’s case, as part of their argument to hold Fairlamb in pretrial detention, the government has argued he was arming and preparing for war. And Fairlamb swore under oath both that he engaged in violence and that he did so with the intent of coercing the government to stop or delay the certification of a democratic election.

Fairlamb will be sentenced on September 27. So we may learn then whether Federal judges — and as I noted, many of the ones presiding over January 6 cases, including Lamberth, also had key roles in the War on Terror — consider January 6 to be terrorism.

Update: Here’s Lamberth’s order upholding the government request for pre-trial detention. It was one of the first he issued after he was sort-of reversed in Munschel, and as such may reflect more chastened language. But he clearly thinks that Fairlamb’s behavior on January 6 fairly exceptional.

Here’s how he described January 6 in the original Munchel decision, though.

The grand jury charged Munchel with grave offenses. In charging Munchel with “forcibly enter[ing] and remain[ing] in the Capitol to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote,” Indictment 1, ECF No. 21, the grand jury alleged that Munchel used force to subvert a democratic election and arrest the peaceful transfer of power. Such conduct threatens the republic itself. See George Washington, Farewell Address (Sept. 19, 1796) (“The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government. All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.”). Indeed, few offenses are more threatening to our way of life.

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.

The Crossroads of Insurrection: The Senate Chamber Insurrection Defendants

In a recent motion opposing relaxing Larry Brock’s release conditions, the government revealed that it, “is continuing to investigate the Defendant for the offense of obstruction under Title 18 United States Code Section 1512(c).” Brock is the retired Lieutenant Colonel who, like Eric Munchel, brought Zip Ties onto the Senate floor. In spite of Brock’s online writings shortly after the election predicting that, ““Fire and blood will be needed soon,” Brock was charged only with misdemeanor trespassing for his role in the insurrection.

Since then, the Senate has been a locus of increased attention, as the government arrests more people with video of what happened there and rounds up the co-conspirators of those they arrested months ago.

That increased attention provides a way to look at the events of January 6 via a different lens. Rather than focusing on the most spectacular defendants — no one is more spectacular than Jacob Chansley, but Eric Munchel’s actions attracted attention away from others — by focusing on who breached the Senate, we can understand some of the logistics that allowed it to be breached. And by whom.

The picture we get, as a result, is a crossroads of the really aggressive participants of the January 6 insurrection, with cultists, militia members, GOP operatives, and curious tourists all represented.

I am assuredly not saying there was or is a conspiracy that joins all these people. While there are some pregnant unanswered questions about individuals like Leo Bozell, Bradley Barnett, Jacob Clark, and Patrick Montgomery — as well as conduct like assaults charged against Montgomery and DJ Shalvey that remain undescribed — there’s absolutely no reason to believe this was all coordinated. … Beyond, of course, the President calling out the mob on Mike Pence.

A focus on the Senate is useful, though, to show how the multiple breaches interacted. The first people who came in the West door (including the Hughes brothers), the Northwest door (including Patrick Montgomery and his buddies), and the East door (which is how Joe Biggs got to the Senate), all made it to the Senate before it was secured. Indeed, a number of people who made it to the Senate (like Ronnie Sandlin) were instrumental in opening the East doors from inside, before they reached the Senate. So looking at who got to the Senate how helps to clarify how all the three main breaches worked in tandem, and in fairly quick succession.

It’s also a reality check about the relative importance of various groups who breached the Capitol. While this is still an impartial picture, the narrative to date suggests that QAnon managed to get far more of their adherents to the Senate floor than either the Proud Boys (Joe Biggs and Arthur Jackman showed up after getting in with the help of people inside) or the Oath Keepers (Kelly Meggs and Joshua James showed up too late). QAnon held a prayer on the dais while the militias were still breaching doors.

There are a number of people who remain — publicly at least — unidentified, such as two of Patrick Montgomery’s associates or someone who shadowed Bozell.

This post, a description of those who breached the Senate organized alphabetically by the most important participant, is just a baseline from which to understand more about who go to the Senate and how.

Update: In comments a few people have explained what significance I attribute to continuances a few of these defendants, like Leo Kelly, have. It means several things. First, it means the person in question is immediately moving to discuss a plea deal. One of the defense attorneys here seems to have chosen to really aggressively seek such continuances (Kira West is a noticed attorney on three of these defendants: Leo Kelly and Christine Priola, both of whom got continuances before being formally charged, and Tony Mariotto, who was charged by information; in the latter two cases, though, West sponsored outside attorneys Pro Hac Vice). But from a narrative perspective, it means our understanding of what the government knows about the defendant is frozen at the moment the FBI agent writes an arrest affidavit, whereas with defendants who get detained and then challenge that detention, which include a high percentage of the defendants who made it to the Senate, we often learn what the government found on the person’s cell phone. One of the points I attempted to make here is that for a variety of reasons, the story told in the court filings leaves out significant and, in some cases, intentional gaps in the revelation of what the government knows.

Note: This is based of my own imperfect list of who was described as being where. Plus, I suck at visual identifications. Please let me know what I’ve missed in comments. 

Thomas Adams

Per his arrest affidavit, Thomas Adams traveled from Springfield, IL, and claims to have just followed the mob with an unnamed friend (probably Roy Franklin, who was interviewed along with him the day of the insurrection) up the scaffolding to what I believe is the Northwest door. The cops he saw after he entered the building “weren’t really doing much … just waiting to see if we’d try to push past them.” Soon thereafter, he entered the Senate, where he saw Jacob Chansley, who he thought was “hilarious.” This is a photo of Adams in the Senate.

Adams took a lot of video while he was in the Capitol, including footage from the Senate floor the government may be particularly interested in, including this image.

Adams was arrested on April 13, over three months after he appeared in an article describing his exploits that day, during a period when the government seemed to be arresting a lot of people who took a lot of video of key scenes. He was charged with trespassing and obstructing the vote count.

Tommy Allen

Tommy Allen flew to DC from Rocklin, CA. He was picked up on video recordings in the Senate from 3:03 to 3:10PM on January 6. In addition to this picture, he was filmed taking papers from the clerks’ desks at the front of the Senate and putting them in his back left pocket, as well as absconding with the American flag.

He would later tell a journalist he took a letter from Trump to Mitch McConnell from the then-Majority Leader’s desk.

Allen was arrested on January 22 after first a stranger and then someone who’d “interacted with him on a number of occasions” alerted the FBI to his Facebook posts, which he tried to delete after he returned home. The latter witness also told the FBI that he or she had heard that Allen had destroyed the documents he took in his backyard.

Allen was charged with trespassing and (probably misdemeanor) theft; after he was formally charged with the same charges on February 2, he wasn’t arraigned until April 8.

Bradley Bennett and Rosie Williams

At some point on January 6, QAnoner Bradley Bennett and his partner Rosie Williams seemed to pray with DJ Shalvey and two others.

And they appear to have gotten in the Capitol the same way that Andrew Griswold did (so probably the East entrance, after those doors were opened from inside). They also made it to the Senate.

Those images would seemingly expose the couple mostly to trespass charges — and indeed, that’s all Rosie got charged with, both on their arrest complaint and their indictment.

But from the start, Bennett responded to his pursuit with obstruction. First, per a tipster who had tracked Bennett for his QAnon postings, Bennett deleted most of his January 6 postings within a day of the event.

Publicly, on the day of the event, Bennett blamed Antifa instigators.

But Bennett texted an associate the same day and clarified that Jacob Chansley was not Antifa.

Bennett and Chansley now share an attorney, Albert Watkins.

Then, after the FBI arrived in Kerrville, TX on March 23 to arrest the couple based off a March 19 warrant, only Rosie was there to be arrested. Per a motion for detention, Bennett had left on March 13 (though one of his sisters claims they split up in February), rented a car, drove to North Carolina, then went to stay with a friend in Fort Mill, South Carolina for two weeks, then hid for another 10 days until finally agreeing to turn himself in on April 9. He stopped using his cell service in that time period and stopped posting to Facebook, shifting to Telegram instead. At some point, he got rid of his new iPhone 11, claiming it did not work (there’s still some uncertainty about when and why he ditched the phone).

Bennett’s efforts to evade arrest may well arise out of nothing more than QAnon paranoia. Though several other aspects about him suggest he may have a more sophisticated Q-related grift going on. But he had attracted attention, even among Q adherents, even before January 6, and he was among the most elusive defendants of all January 6 arrestees.

Joe Biggs and Arthur Jackman

That Joe Biggs made his way to the Senate chamber did not show up in his arrest affidavit, or the first several filings in his case. It was mentioned in the “Leadership indictment” charging Biggs and three others with a conspiracy to obstruct the election certification.

64. Thirty minutes after first entering the Capitol on the west side, BIGGS and two other members of the Proud boys, among others, forcibly re-entered the Capitol through the Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol, pushing past at least one law enforcement officer and entering the Capitol directly in front of a group of individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers.

65. After re-entering the Capitol by force, BIGGS and another member of the Proud Boys traveled to the Senate chamber.

But that indictment, released on March 10, may have increased the urgency of the focus on the Senate, as it showed that Biggs entered the Capitol twice — first in the initial wave, through the West door, and then through the East door — in a kind of pincer movement and after doing so went to where Mike Pence had only recently been evacuated.

I’m not sure I’ve seen pictures of Biggs in the Senate. But the arrest affidavit for Arthur Jackman — with Paul Rae, one of two Floridians who tailed Biggs around that day — shows him, after twice being caught walking with his hand on Biggs’ shoulder…

… And posing with Biggs and Rae for a selfie on the East steps …

Jackman’s affidavit shows him in the Senate (where we know Biggs also went).

And taking this selfie with his Proud Boys emblazoned cell phone.

In fact, the investigation into Jackman (at least as described in the affidavit) started when a friend of Jackman’s shared that selfie — which Jackman had first sent to a childhood friend — with the FBI.

When interviewed by the FBI on January 19, a good two months before he was arrested, Jackman explained that he had joined the Proud Boys in 2016 as a way to support Trump, refused to say whether he had entered the Capitol, but claimed the Proud Boys weren’t there to infiltrate it as [this makes no sense] it was not a sanctioned Proud Boys event.

It’s going to be hard to argue he didn’t breach the Capitol as part of a Proud Boys’ event (twice!) when he did so each time tailing along behind Joe Biggs.

Joshua Black

Joshua Black claimed that God instructed him to drive to DC and take part in events on January 6, and he came with his knife. He was at the front of the mob pushing past barricades before the initial breach of the Capitol (though it’s not clear whether he was pushing himself or being pushed from behind), and after being hit in his face with a plastic bullet, he then walked around the Capitol and entered the East side, at the forefront of another mob. Then he found the Senate Chamber.

While there, he joined others in rifling through and photographing papers on the desks and then in prayer. He ordered someone else (maybe Christian Secor?) to get out of the presiding officer’s chair and not to be disrespectful, and ordered others not to loot the place.

He self reported after he showed up in media coverage, and then later admitted to the FBI he brought the knife that would significantly expand his legal exposure.

He was formally charged with obstruction, and the trespassing charges against him were enhanced because of that knife. He spent over three months in jail, in part because an Alabama Magistrate believed he might be dangerous if he came to believe God ordered him to commit violence. After a hearing on April 23, Amy Berman Jackson released him to home confinement.

Leo “Zeeker” Bozell

Someone whose kids went to school with Zeeker Bozell’s kids tipped of the FBI on January 14 that he had been part of the riot.

Then later, when CNN published footage from the New Yorker on the Senate rioters, that same tipster alerted the FBI to that, too, circling the scion of the movement conservative, Leo Bozell, in the picture.

After being interviewed by the FBI on January 19, the same very persistent witness followed up again on January 24 with this YouTube video that included a fleeting glimpse of Bozell, this time on the balcony in the Senate.

The clip itself is innocuous. But the crowd it captures on the balcony, possibly a convergence of the first people to arrive, may be far more important.

What may have finally piqued the FBI’s interest in the son of a prominent Republican operative were the videos showing that while Bozell was up on the balcony — before anyone was on the floor of the Senate — he and a much younger man (Mike P persuasively argues that this is Bruno Cua in comments) took steps to ensure that two cameras would not capture what was about to happen on the Senate floor.

Bozell was originally charged with trespassing and obstruction on February 11; he was arrested 6 days later. It wasn’t until his indictment on March 12 — two days after Joe Biggs was indicted in the “Leadership” indictment — that Bozell was charged with doing or abetting $1,000 of damage while forcibly entering the Capitol, the same charge used to detain some Proud Boys and Oath Keepers prior to trial. But in spite of being implicated in a crime of violence, Bozell was released on personal recognizance.

Larry Brock

Larry Brock is the less famous of the two Zip Tie Guys in the Senate that day, though Brock was even more kitted out than Eric Munchel. According to his arrest affidavit, within two days of the riot, Brock’s ex-wife called the FBI and told them he had been on the Senate floor. That same day, someone who knew of Brock’s Air Force background and ties to defense contractor L3 also tipped off the FBI.

Brock is one of the people (Oath Keepers Kelly Meggs and Joshua James were recently disclosed to be others) who also made it to Nancy Pelosi’s office, suggesting he was hunting top legislators. Yet, even though videos show Brock lecturing the other insurrectionists that, to win the I/O (information operation) war, they needed to avoid damaging anything, and even though Brock’s social media shows he had started talking war days after the election and mused that, “I really believe we are going to take back what they did on November 3,” while traveling to DC, the government only charged him with misdemeanor trespass (though as noted above, they’re still weighing obstruction charges for him).

Jacob Chansley

Jacob Chansley’s strutting poses have made him the poster child of the insurrection, but the self-billed “Q Shaman” was well know to those who tracked extremist organizing and QAnon before January 6.

As with Joshua Black, the FBI didn’t need to come looking for Chansley. He called them on January 7 and admitted he was the guy with animal pelts and no shirt.

Even though Chansley was originally charged on January 8 only with trespassing, an indictment obtained 3 days later charged him with obstruction and civil disorder. When Royce Lamberth denied Chansley’s bid for pre-trial release, he treated the spear Chansley had brought as a dangerous weapon, which will make his trespassing charges a felony as well.

Amid all the discussions about Chansley since he was arrested, one thing has gotten little public attention: his admission that he traveled to DC with some other people from Arizona, people who no doubt would implicate him in an extremist network that predated January 6. Unless I’ve missed it, that network hasn’t been implicated together.

Jacob Clark

The government got an arrest warrant for Jacob Clark by March 5. It appears to be based largely off using facial recognition to match his Colorado driver’s license to nine different pictures obtained from surveillance videos from the Capitol, corroborated by one person who knows him. They also used returns from the Google GeoFence warrant to show he was inside the Capitol from 2:15 until 3:25PM the day of the riot and returns from a Verizon warrant showing him driving from Colorado to DC from January 4 to 5 and then returning starting on January 7.

Because the government didn’t arrest Clark until April 21, over six weeks after obtaining the warrant, the warrant affidavit surely only shows a fraction of what the government knows about him. Even still, the affidavit shows Clark to have been like Where’s Waldo during the time he was in the Capitol, with surveillance footage showing him in four different confrontations with police in four different locations, each time seemingly pushing the cops to let rioters run through the building. The most easily identifiable (though he was also in the Rotunda as it was breached) shows that Clark took part in the exchange with plain clothes police outside the Senate gallery that Nate DeGrave was also charged for.

What’s interesting is the video shows that Clark got to that hallway over a minute before almost everyone else.

Clark was charged with civil disorder, obstruction, and trespassing, but perhaps because he was only recently arrested, he has not yet been indicted.

Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nick DeGrave

I described here how these three men planned and outfitted for the insurrection together. The key takeaway from that post for the purpose of this one is that Sandlin and DeGrave are accused of tussling with cops so as to permit the East door of the Capitol to be opened (through which some key conspirators rushed), but also of fighting with cops just outside the Senate Chamber (along with Jacob Clark, above, and with Christian Secor watching) so as to permit the Chamber itself to be breached.

Only Josiah Colt is recognizable among these three, but his two buddies played pretty key roles in the success of the larger insurrection.

Elias Costianes

The FBI received a tip on January 8 that Elias Costianes had posted videos of his participation in the riot on his Snapchat account. On January 19, the tipster provided the videos he uploaded. Those showed Costianes filming himself in the Senate, outside Pelosi’s office, and possibly watching the East doors being breached. He was charged on February 3 with trespassing and obstruction and arrested on February 12. He was indicted on the same charges on March 3, and his case has been continued since, meaning there’s no explanation for why he knew precisely where to go in the Capitol.

Bruno Cua

Cua, a spoiled 18-year old whose own parents enabled his participation in the insurrection, was part of the mob that fought to get into the Senate Chamber (along with Sandlin, DeGrave, and Clark). According to his arrest affidavit, he was turned in by local police officers, who knew him because he has a history of pissing off his neighbors and ignoring orders. He was charged on January 29, arrested on February 5, and indicted on February 10. He was charged with obstruction, civil disorder, and assault/resisting, and his trespass charges were enhanced because he carried a baton with him. Even after the insurrection, Cua still endorsed violence.

Violent protests against the capital (NOT SMALL BUSINESS’S) are well within our constitutional rights

Dear Swamp Rats, The events at the capital were a reminder that WE THE PEOPLE are in charge of this country and that you work for us. There will be no ‘warning shot’ next time.

Everyone who works in congress is a traitor to the people and deserves a public execution.

But beyond details from his social media posts, there was nothing from an extended detention fight that illuminated more about Cua’s ties.

Andrew Griswold

For all we can tell from the court filings, Andrew Griswold is just some guy who went to the Senate floor along with a bunch of other people who wanted to prevent the vote count.

But there are a few interesting features of his case. Someone else who went to the Senate helped get Griswold, from Niceville, Florida, arrested. His Febuary 26 arrest affidavit, describing how he was one of the first people to come through what must be the East door after it was opened with the help of Sandlin and DeGrave, relies, in part on,

camera footage obtained from an individual (W-2) who also entered the Capitol on January 6. At multiple points during the video, an individual who appears to be GRISWOLD is visible, wearing a camouflage jacket.

[snip]

At one point in the video, W-2 walks through a hallway, and GRISWOLD is visible ahead. W-2 then enters the Senate gallery, and GRISWOLD is again visible, as seen in the screenshot below:

The discovery shared with Griswold may describe this as, “One clip from a video obtained in another investigation” which the government deems as Sensitive.

Magistrate Michael Harvey approved Griswold’s arrest warrant on February 26. But the first arrest warrant against him was quashed by Harvey, apparently on March 1; the arrest warrant that Harvey approved is also dated March 1. Griswold was arrested on March 5 and that same day he and his attorney stipulated to the fidelity of the FBI image of his phone so he could get it returned, which is a reasonable thing to do if you want to avoid buying a new phone but very rare among January 6 defendants (indeed, Vitaly Gossjankowski won’t so stipulate with his laptop, even though that has expensive software on it to assist his hearing disability). Griswold was charged with trespassing and obstruction, but almost two months after his arrest, he has not been formally indicted.

Apparently as part of Griswold’s efforts to get the DC pretrial release conditions imposed rather than the local FL ones (the conditions differ in terms of the travel restrictions, the reporting requirements, restrictions on alcohol and other drugs, and — most notably — restrictions on the right to retain a legal firearm), the original Florida judge in his case recused and another granted Griswold’s request. All subsequent January 6 defendants seem to be having restrictions imposed on gun ownership, so that may have been the issue.

Paul Hodgkins

In an interview on January 26, four days after an acquaintance provided the FBI with a selfie he posted to Parler, Paul Hodgkins told the FBI that he traveled to DC alone, on a bus, and didn’t know any of the people engaged in violence or destruction around him. But before he started rifling through things on the desks in the Senate, he put on some white latex gloves, which is a curious bit of preparation for a guy who just hopped on a bus alone.

Hodgkins’ release conditions — initially, with a $25,000 bond and high intensity supervision, though with the bond later dropped by Magistrate Merriweather and then his curfew loosened by Judge Randolph Moss — were much stricter than other defendants charged, like he was on March 5, with trespassing and obstruction. (That could either stem from a strict local magistrate or from a prior arrest record.) In both of Hodgkins’ appearances, his lawyers have talked about making a plea deal.

Jerod  and Joshua Hughes

Jerod and Joshua Hughes are brothers from Montana. They watched as Dominick Pezzola busted through a window to break into the Capitol, were among the first 10 people in (amid a group that included Proud Boys who — like them — are from Montana), then Jerod kicked the door open to allow other rioters in behind them.

They went from there immediately towards the Senate floor, following Officer Goodman closely behind Doug Jensen.

Once inside the Senate, Jerod set about ransacking desks as Christian Secor, holding his America First sign, looked on.

That’s about all their arrest warrant, charging them with civil disorder, damaging government property, obstruction, and trespassing describes. They turned themselves in on January 11 after the FBI released their pictures on a BOLO. They were indicted on February 10. Since that time first Jerod, then Joshua, have moved for bond, which Judge Tim Kelly granted to both on April 7.

Those detention disputes, revealed that the brothers had driven over days to attend Trump’s rally. They claimed, at first, that they had gone to the Capitol in response to Trump’s exhortations. But after the prosecutor reviewed the Cellebrite report from Jerod’s phone on April 5, the government discovered texts showing buddies had funded the trip, and that Jerod claimed that he was behaving as a model citizen by participating in an insurrection.

Defendant: Ah we didn’t do anything crazy like destroy shit or fight the cops. Trespass and vandalism. Meh. I’ve done time. It’s josh I worry about.

Person Five: It’s the trespassing I worry about, but there may have been so many of you that figuring it out is more trouble than it’s worth. Were you in the photos? I could only see josh

Defendant: They got my ugly mug up and down. Trespassing ain’t shit. I feel like I was behaving like a model citizen ready to reclaim my country. Not enuff people followed.

Jerod said to someone else that they had wanted to hold the place but didn’t have numbers to accomplish that.

Person Six: How was it

Defendant: Insane on a few different levels.

Defendant: I saw picture [sic] of me and josh already on the news. Not enough people followed us in to hold the place. We had to get the fuck out.

The government also noted — attributing it to a picture on Jerod’s phone though they surely would have had it before — that the two had been present in the Senate Gallery, as well as the Senate floor.

Leo Christopher Kelly

Leo Kelly did an interview the day of the riot — after being among the first people in the Capitol and praying with others on the dais of the Senate — expressing some reservations about invading other people’s space. He asked a Deputy US Marshal to tell the FBI he would turn himself in if an arrest warrant were issued. He was arrested, just on trespassing charges, days later. Since that time, the government has twice deferred formally charging him, with the next deadline for a preliminary hearing set for May 10.

Anthony Mariotto

Like fellow Floridian, Arthur Jackman, Tony Mariotto was first IDed after he shared a selfie from the Senate Gallery and a friend shared it (after Mariotto had deleted his Facebook account) with the FBI.

Mariotto was in Georgia when the FBI first caught up with him. But when they asked, he immediately returned to Florida, and, on January 19, handed over his phone to be imaged. Three days later he was arrested. On February 8, he was formally charged with trespassing.

His arrest affidavit, which describes, “other videos that were recorded inside the Capitol Building during the events of January 6, 2021,” doesn’t describe what was on those videos. They may be among those that implicate others who entered the Senate.

Patrick Montgomery and Brady Knowlton

The investigation of Patrick Montgomery is a useful snapshot for understanding the Senate as a crossroads. As I wrote here, his acquaintances started turning him into the FBI the day after the insurrection, leading to his arrest and formal charge on misdemeanor trespassing charges by information. Even while that was happening, the FBI was investigating a guy who showed up in one of his pictures from the day, Brady Knowlton.

Knowlton’s arrest affidavit implicated two other guys, one that a witness who has been in a lawsuit with Knowlton for years described as Knowlton’s “right-hand man,” but who remains unnamed and uncharged. And surveillance images of Knowlton and Montgomery IDed someone — the guy in the hoodie who entered the Capitol with Knowlton and Montgomery — whom FBI either declined to name or had not yet IDed when they got the Knowlton arrest warrant.

The three of them went to the Rotunda — where people were opening a third breach to the Capitol — and from there to the Senate, with Knowlton filming from his camera the entire time.

When the government indicted Montgomery and Knowlton on April 16, they not only charged both with obstruction, but they added assault and civil disorder charges against Montgomery for an unidentified exchange with cops.

So in addition to the assault that Montgomery allegedly was involved in, this thread still leaves two men unidentified.

Christopher Moynihan

Per his arrest affidavit, Christopher Moynihan is another of the people who rifled through official papers when he got to the floor of the Senate on January 6. g “There’s got to be something we can use against these fucking scumbags,” he was quoted as saying. In the wake of the New Yorker video, two of Moynihan’s former co-workers alerted the FBI to his identity. He joined the prayer on the dais, but with a sour face that made it look like he was just going along. He was arrested on February 25 and indicted with the same obstruction and trespassing charges on March 17.

Eric Munchel and Lisa Eisenhart

Eric Munchel and his mom, Lisa Eisenhart, quickly became the focus of both legal and press attention given his spectacular appearance on the floor of the Senate with Zip Ties.

They were arrested early — on January 15. Munchel’s admission to having a taser when he breached the Capitol increased both’s legal exposure under a deadly weapon enhancement. But Munchel’s general compliance with law enforcement also helped to convince the DC Circuit they would not be a threat going forward.

After the events of January 6, Munchel apparently considered joining Proud Boys. But instead, he’s now the poster child both for the threat of kidnapping, but also for a DC Circuit standard of bail that treats involvement in a terrorist event as a historical threat, and requires detention decisions to consider whether the same people pose a forward-looking terrorist threat.

The more important point for the purposes of this post is that the government has not yet shown proof that Munchel or his mother did more than recognize the two militias as they were engaged in armed MAGA tourism while holding zip ties.

Christine Priola

According to her arrest affidavit, the government identified Christine Priola’s presence in the Senate chamber within days, based in part on the sign she carried reading, “The Children Cry Out for Justice,” perhaps suggesting a QAnon affiliation. Curiously, the affidavit explains that she and others — the first people in the Senate — “entered the restricted floor area of the Senate chambers and took photographs of the evacuation of the Senate chambers that were required based on the unauthorized entrance,” suggesting the rioters arrived even earlier than the impeachment case had made out.

After a tip on January 8 from someone in Cleveland that Priola, who worked for the Cleveland School District, was the one holding the sign, the FBI searched her home and seized her devices — on which she had filmed events in the Senate — that same day. But when the FBI imaged her phone, there were no photos, videos, chats, or messages from January 4 through 7, and the location of the phone was also unavailable until 4:23PM on January 6, when her phone showed up northeast of the Capitol.

Priola was arrested for trespassing on January 14, but since then her case has been on hold, without even an Information to show whether the FBI obtained more information on why her phone had been cleared within two days.

Michael Roche

Michael Roche is one of the people who joined Jacob Chansley in prayer on the Senate dais. The story of how he came to be arrested — and why he was not arrested until April 13 — remains a muddle. He was IDed on February 8 when law enforcement found a video he made posted to someone else’s account. In the video, he admitted that,

We did get a chance to storm the Capitol. And we made it into the chamber. . . . We managed to convince the cops to let us through. They listened to reason. And when we got into the chamber … we all started praying and shouting in the name of Jesus Christ, and inviting Christ back into out state [sic] capitol.

That seems to have led the FBI to this photo was posted by Seth Roche, explaining that he took the picture before people started claiming that Jacob Chansley was Antifa and explaining (I think) that his brother had stood shoulder to shoulder in prayer with Chansley, “in the main capital [sic] chamber [sic] holding up the Bible.”

Roche’s arrest affidavit suggests the FBI found both those posts before the New Yorker posted its story on January 17 with the video of Chansley, Roche, and others praying.

According to the arrest affidavit, nothing else happened until US Marshals, in an effort to find a missing child, knocked on Roche’s door, thinking the child’s family lived there. Roche told the Marshals he thought they were coming to arrest him. When the Marshals informed the FBI that same day, the FBI got the Marshal to ID Roche as the person in the NYer.

Again, all that happened by February 2. It wasn’t until April 7 when the FBI submitted his arrest affidavit. The affidavit not only has no more recent evidence in it, but it doesn’t really explain why Roche (unlike — say — Larry Brock) got charged with obstruction along with trespassing.

Those questions further raise the question about whose Facebook his interview appeared on, because that person may be the real person of interest associated with Roche.

Christian Secor

It seems like Christian Secor’s classmates at UCLA jumped on the opportunity to report Secor’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Eleven people, many of them students, IDed Secor as one of the people who had sat in the presiding officer’s seat or otherwise shown up in the New Yorker video of the Senate occupation.

But Secor did more than tour the Senate. The surveillance videos the FBI included with his arrest affidavit show Secor was among those who shoved the East doors open from inside.

He was close to  the brawl outside the Senate gallery doors involving Nate DeGrave, Ronnie Sandlin, and Jacob Clark.

There’s even a clip of him just behind the woman that the FBI suspects of having Nancy Pelosi’s laptop (per a Homer, AK woman who claims she was mistakenly IDed as such).

There’s no reason to believe Secor and this woman are together, but the proximity is interesting given that Riley June Williams, also a Groyper, allegedly first took the laptop.

Secor was arrested on suspicion of assault, civil disorder, obstruction, and trespassing on February 16 and indicted on those same charges on February 26. In March his lawyer moved to get him released in time to finish his UCLA finals. The government tried to oppose his release, pointing in part to his pro-fascist views, in part to the weapons he had been acquiring and in part to his alleged attempts to cover up his involvement. But Judge Trevor McFadden released him on a $200,000 bail with a rather curious kind of home incarceration that lets him out to work.

DJ Shalvey

DJ Shalvey is the guy wearing an undersized hard hat depicted in videos of people rifling through papers in the Senate. He’s quoted thinking Ted Cruz sold them out before others tell him, no, Ted Cruz was right there with the insurrectionists.

The FBI obtained an arrest warrant for him after two long-time associates alerted the FBI, one of whom shared selfies that Shalvey sent him the day of the riot, by February 12. But he wasn’t arrested until March 9, reportedly after turning himself in. Somewhere along the way he must have interviewed with the FBI, though, because his (still undocketed) indictment released Friday not only added assault and civil disorder charges against him, as well as theft charges for taking a letter from Mitt Romney to Mike Pence, but they also made Shalvey the rare if not only January 6 defendant charged with lying to the FBI about that assault.

 

Is a Disorganized Militia January 6 Conspiracy in the Offing?

I’m working on a very long post about everyone known to have occupied the Senate on January 6. As part of it, I’m trying to lay out how a bunch of seemingly unconnected people who were present in the Senate network together many of the disparate groups that took part in the insurrection.

For a variety of reasons, I want to look at one node of that network — Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nate DeGrave — that may soon become a non-militia conspiracy that parallels the militia ones, but is based on a more disparate ideology.

This network first attracted attention when its Idaho member, Josiah Colt was photographed hanging from the balcony level of the Senate, as well as another one showing him sitting in the presiding officer’s chair.

His January 9 arrest affidavit says little about how the FBI IDed him, beyond an interview he gave to CBS, and it charged him just with trespassing; he was arrested on January 12. His February 3 indictment added obstruction and abetting, but never described him as part of a network that worked together to halt the vote count.

Nor did Ronnie Sandlin’s arrest affidavit, approved on January 20 but not executed until January 28. It made just a small mention of his presence in the Senate gallery, showing a picture but not the surveillance footage of his efforts to keep the doors to it open. But mostly it made him sound (and was treated by much of the press) like someone who entered the Capitol and on a lark smoked a joint in there.

Two days after Colt was indicted, Sandlin was indicted, by himself, for assault and obstruction in addition to trespassing. And while the indictment provided the initials of the officers Sandlin allegedly assaulted, it didn’t really describe the significance of those assaults.

The hints that Colt, Las Vegas-based Nate DeGrave, and Ronnie Sandlin (who’s life was in transit before he ended up in DC jail) were all working together began to show in DeGrave’s arrest affidavit which (we now know) was obtained after the FBI, in search of Sandlin, discovered he was at DeGrave’s house in Vegas.

On January 28, 2021, cell-site data for Sandlin’s phone received pursuant to a search warrant led investigators in the FBI Las Vegas division to locate and visually identify Sandlin’s vehicle parked outside the Las Vegas apartment complex where DeGrave was confirmed to reside. That same day, Sandlin was spotted leaving the apartment and taken into custody by the FBI. Based on the defendant’s actions on January 6, 2021, a complaint and arrest warrant for DeGrave were issued on January 28, 2021, and DeGrave was arrested at his residence.

There are a lot of details in DeGrave’s arrest affidavit in there about their joint planning to travel to DC, as well as their boasts that violence might be necessary.

Even still, nothing in that affidavit explains the significance of the confrontation captured in this picture (and not yet described as involving serious contact); DeGrave is allegedly the guy with his fists raised.

And even though DeGrave was indicted the same day and on roughly the same charges as Sandlin, they weren’t yet joined in the same conspiracy.

A February 9 search warrant affidavit for Colt’s Facebook account that has only recently been unsealed reveals that the government was obtaining his Facebook content, in part, to learn more about the joint efforts of the three of them.

Here, Sandlin mentions boogaloo; elsewhere, he mentioned 3%. A bond filing described him as a QAnon follower and at other times he mentions the Rubicon. There’s no clear ideology here as opposed to the mishmash Trump supporters ingested online.

In response to the search warrant, Facebook returned posts and conversations in which the defendant discussed “stop[ping] the steal” and displayed an adherence to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. See CBS News, What Is the QAnon Conspiracy Theory? (Nov. 24, 2020), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-is-the-qanon-conspiracy-theory/. On December 10, 2020, he posted an image decrying the use of masks and facility closures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, accompanied by the hashtag “#WWG1WGA”—where we go one we go all—a QAnon refrain. See id. In response to some commenters’ criticism of this post, Sandlin wrote what would become his own rallying cry leading up to the riot on January 6: “tyranny always masquerades itself as safety and security. Freedom is paid for with blood, there is a reason why America was founded on the principles of give me liberty or give me death.” The government understands that Sandlin carried around a coin with the letter “Q” on it, apparently to demonstrate his proud affiliation with the QAnon movement.

We also now know that the FBI obtained this warrant, in part, in an attempt to reconstruct the Facebook content that Sandlin and DeGrave allegedly deleted.

A bond filing in DeGrave’s case was where I first started asking why these men weren’t being treated as a conspiracy in the same way the militias were. It described chats with in-depth planning for their trip.

Beginning on December 31, 2020, DeGrave, Sandlin, and Colt began a private group chat on Facebook to plan for the 6th. They discussed “shipping guns” to Sandlin’s residence in TN, where they would all meet before driving to D.C. Colt said he would try to fly with his “G43,” which the government understands to refer to a Glock .43 pistol. They filled up their Amazon shopping carts with weapons and paramilitary gear to take to the Capitol. For example, the defendant stated he was “looking at a 100w laser the thing that can instantly burn paper.” Sandlin responded: “Good god you want to burn these communists retinas?” The defendant replied: “I dont but would rather do that then have to shoot someone” and “would be totally possible though.” To minimize his prior statements, the defendant added, “all purely self defence might I add. but will be ready.” Sandlin stated he was bringing his “little pocket gun” and a knife. Later that evening, the defendant asked for Sandlin’s address and then wrote that he had “about 300 worth of stuff coming to you.” Sandlin appears to have reviewed the defendant’s list of Amazon purchases and then wrote: “Nate is really ready for battle hahaha.” Sandlin and Colt later posted pictures of their recent purchases, including a glock holster, gas masks, and a helmet. On January 3, 2021, the defendant posted a picture of various items of clothing with skulls on them, a helmet, and a face mask on Facebook, with the following caption: “Gearing up. Only a fraction of what I have. #fbappropriate #dc #jan6 #drdeath.” He also posted that he was “flying in with friends on the 6th. We’re ready to do what is necessary to save the country.”

The bond filing describes how the three of them armed themselves for their trip to DC on January 6.

DeGrave, Colt, and Sandlin ultimately brought the following weapons and other items with them in a rental car from Tennessee to the D.C. metropolitan area: one Glock 43 pistol, one pocket gun, two magazines of ammunition, bear mace, gas masks, a handheld taser/stun gun, military-style vests/body armor, two helmets, an expandable baton, walkie talkies, and several knives. Colt brought a gun to a rally in Washington, D.C. on January 5. While in the Capitol on January 6, Sandlin and Colt were armed with knives, and Colt had bear mace in his backpack. The defendant carried a walkie talkie, as did Colt.

Thus far, none of them have been charged with weapons possession nor even had their trespassing charges enhanced because they carried knives (though 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; note, too, there was a woman involved with them who thus far remains uncharged and unnamed who might be witness to these preparations).

Most importantly, the DeGrave filing described the significance of the two assaults he and Sandlin are accused of. The first served to create the opportunity to open what sounds like the East door of the Capitol (through which Joe Biggs and the Oath Keepers entered).

Surveillance footage from the entrance to the Capitol rotunda depicts a mob outside attempting to gain entry through a door. The door’s glass windows are damaged. Individuals already inside can be seen moving benches blocking the door to try to let the mob in, at which point three U.S. Capitol Police (“USCP”) officers move in to stand guard in front of the door. The defendant, Sandlin, and Colt are then seen entering the area, along with approximately twenty to thirty other individuals. The USCP officers are without backup.

Sandlin approaches the officers and appears to be yelling and pointing at them. Sandlin continues to yell, and DeGrave moves to his side. Immediately thereafter, the crowd, including DeGrave and Sandlin, begins pushing the officers and slowly forces the door behind the officers open, allowing the mob outside to begin streaming in. Rather than shy away, DeGrave continues to engage and records the ongoing attack on the officers. Sandlin can be seen attempting to rip the helmet off of one of the USCP officers, an apparent attempt to expose him and render him vulnerable as the mob surrounds him.

The second created the opportunity to get into the Senate.

DeGrave and Sandlin continue to engage with the crowd near the entrance, with at least one officer still trapped in the midst, until Colt taps the defendant on the shoulder and leads the two away and up nearby stairs. Around this time, Colt shouted something to the effect of “we have to get to the Senate” and “there’s no turning back now, boys, we’re here.”

They eventually made their way to the Senate. Additional surveillance video footage from the Capitol Senate Gallery provides a view of a hallway and several sets of doors, which lead to the upper balcony of the Senate Chamber, where shortly before the Senate and the Vice President had been convened for the Electoral College vote count certification. The beginning of the video clip shows several unidentified subjects in the hallway. A USCP officer (hereinafter “USCP1”) can be seen entering one of these sets of doors and is shortly joined by two other USCP officers (“USCP2” and “USCP3”). As part of their official duties, USCP1, USCP2, and USCP3 were clearing individuals out of rooms and securing the doors.

Approximately 27 seconds into the video clip, Sandlin enters the view of the security camera. Shortly thereafter, USCP2 and USCP3 move toward the second set of doors to start to usher people out, while USCP1 finishes locking the first set of doors. Sandlin can be seen walking next to USCP1 as he approaches the second set of doors, and while USCP2 is attempting to close the second set of doors. Sandlin cuts in front of USCP1 and attempts to wrestle the door away from USCP2. DeGrave then joins Sandlin in a shoving match with the USCP officers in an attempt to keep the door open. Following this assault on USCP officers, DeGrave bragged that he punched an officer “three or four times.” As the three USCP officers make their way away from the crowd, DeGrave, Sandlin, and several others are observed on the video footage acting in an aggressive manner towards the officers. DeGrave puts up his fists as if to begin boxing one of the retreating USCP officers. As the USCP officer steps away, DeGrave can be seen banging his chest.

Shortly thereafter, the defendant, Sandlin, 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. After Colt jumped down, DeGrave was one of several individuals yelling at Colt to take documents and laptops.

In other words, these three guys, with closer ties to QAnon than to the military, played a key role in a pincer effect that created a second or third front inside the Capitol and succeeded in occupying the Senate floor.

As I said, when I read the DeGrave filing, I began to wonder why these guys aren’t being treated with the same seriousness as the militia groups, as a well-armed conspiracy.

The government was considering such a step earlier this month. In a bond filing in Ronnie Sandlin’s case, the government claimed (back on April 5) they anticipated superseding Sandlin (and, the implication is, DeGrave and Colt’s) indictments soon.

With respect to why the defendant was not charged in the same indictment as Mr. DeGrave, the other individual who traveled to D.C. with the defendant and was present with him inside the Capitol: Mr. Colt, the third individual who traveled with them, was indicted on February 3, 2021—the same day the defendant and Mr. DeGrave had their initial appearances in Las Vegas. The indictment timeline for these individuals thus varied. The government was and is still investigating them for conspiracy and anticipates superseding in this matter in the near future.

These men allegedly put in extensive planning to prepare for their assault on the Capitol. They explicitly planned for violence, and DeGrave and Sandlin are both accused of violence. The government further alleges (but has not yet charged) Sandlin and DeGrave with attempting to obstruct the investigation afterwards. For months, the government has seemingly focused on the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to the detriment of a focus on the more organic networks formed online or in in-person protests. That may be about to change.

I expect there will be further stories told about the Senate incursion, as I alluded to here. And I expect those stories will show how all these networks worked together to pull off a tremendous success on January 6.