Posts

Brandon Fellows Gets a CIPA Notice

In a truly curious development, Brandon Fellows — the guy on the left in the picture, who is currently accused only of obstruction and trespassing in the January 6 riot — just got a CIPA notice. The Classified Information Procedures Act provides a way for the government to prosecute people using classified information while limiting how much information must be shared with the defendant or made public. Effectively, the government gets to show the judge classified information and argue that it is not helpful to the defense or ask to substitute something more innocuous for the classified information to be used at trial.

It’s not yet clear what kind of classified information the government wants to use against Fellows.

But one thing I’ve been tracking is DOJ’s thus far fruitless attempt to figure out who stole Jeff Merkley’s laptop.

Fellows was one of the people who was in his office during the riot and his arrest affidavit mentions the laptop, but admits that at that point (in January) they had no evidence he stole it.

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

Fellows’ discovery shows they obtained a Pen Register on him (which would allow the government to track his contacts). But it doesn’t show that he received what the guy with whom he was pictured with in Merkley’s office, Justin McAuliffe, received: a picture of the stolen laptop.

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

Since I first started tracking this question — and all the defendants arrested because they were filming in Merkley’s office — in May, several more people who were in Merkley’s office have been arrested.

A (surely partial) list of those who were in Merkley’s office, with their arrest date and current status, includes:

  • Anthime Gionet (Baked Alaska): Arrested January 15, still charged (with just trespassing) on original arrest affidavit
  • Brandon Fellows (upstate NY): Arrested January 16, indicted (with obstruction) February 2, jailed for being an asshole to pre-trial services July 15
  • Justin McAuliffe (Long Island): Arrested January 28 and still charged on arrest affidavit, finalizing plea deal as soon as he recovers from a recent car accident
  • Zach Rehl (Philly): Arrested in the Proud Boys Leadership conspiracy indictment on March 19, charged with conspiracy to obstruct the vote count, among other crimes
  • Felipe Marquez (Miami): Arrested January 19 then later charged with obstruction, only to plead guilty to a misdemeanor on September 10
  • Karol Chwiesiuk (a cop from Chicago who did recon the night before the attack): Arrested June 11, still charged with just trespassing on original arrest affidavit
  • Anton Lunyk (NY): Arrested May 11, charged with trespassing on June 17
  • Antonio Ferrigno and Francis Connor (NY): Buddies of Lunyk arrested on trespass charges on August 31
  • Oliver Sarko (OH): Arrested April 30, still charged with just trespassing on original arrest affidavit
  • Jody Tagaris (FL): Arrested around May 14, charged with trespassing on May 19, change of plea scheduled for October 15
  • Gary Edwards (PA): Arrested May 4, charged with trespassing on May 18
  • Nathan Entrekin (the guy from AZ who dressed like Captain Moroni): Arrested July 15, still charged on original affidavit

Some of these people — like Entrekin and Edwards — were probably arrested to get to video they took, including of what happened in Merkley’s office. Gionet, too, took video, but I would be shocked if he weren’t eventually charged with (at least) obstruction. There’s three buddies from Brooklyn (Lunyk, Ferrigno, and Connor) who realized they were in trouble when they showed up in pictures with Gionet.

Fellows is currently the only one of these people charged with a felony, obstruction.

But given that people with ties to the far right who were in Nancy Pelosi’s office stole a laptop and offered it to Russia, I do wonder whether someone also tried to share Merkley’s laptop with Russia.

That’s the kind of thing that might require classified information to charge.

Update: h/t Eureka for reminding me Rehl was pictured smoking in Merkley’s office.

Update (9/10): I neglected to include Felipe Marquez in this list. He just pled guilty. I’ve added him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 6: On the Track of the Missing Laptops

In recent days there have been developments in the investigation into two laptops stolen on January 6. First, a woman in Homer, Alaska claims the FBI seized her own devices, based off a suspicion that she is the woman who currently has Nancy Pelosi’s laptop.

Marilyn and Paul Hueper, owners of the Homer Inn and Spa, told Alaska’s News Source that agents broke through their door early Wednesday morning with guns drawn, handcuffed the couple and two guests, and started searching the premises.

“They basically took me out of the handcuffs and said something like, ‘So you probably know why we’re here.’ I was like, ‘no, probably not.’” Marilyn Hueper said Friday. “And they said, ‘well, we’re looking for Nancy Pelosi’s laptop and we know you were in the building and you were in the room at the time.’”

The FBI isn’t saying much about what they know about the search.

“I can confirm that, on April 28, the FBI was conducting court authorized law enforcement activity at the location you are referring to. At this time, and until it reaches the public realm, we can’t discuss the details,” Chloe Martin, Public Affairs Officer for the Alaska Field office of the FBI, told Alaska’s News Source via email Friday.

The Huepers’ name does not come up in a search of online court records for the U.S. District of Alaska.

The couple declined to provide a copy of the search warrant the FBI had, but said it permitted agents to search for items stolen from the Capitol.

Agents seized cell phones, laptops and a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Huepers said.

“We never got within 100 yards of the main doors of the Capitol,” Paul Hueper said.

Her arguments that she’s not the person in the BOLO the FBI showed her are pretty convincing.

That said, she and her spouse claimed they were on the other side of the Mall on the day of the riot, even though they posted to Facebook from closer to the Capitol. I hope we learn how it’s possible that they have two GeoFences from the Capitol but could make a mistake like this.

Meanwhile, discovery correspondence filed yesterday in the case of Long Island CPA Justin McAuliffe suggests he may know something about what happened to Jeff Merkley’s laptop, which was also stolen during the riot.

Merkley did a video showing the damage done to his office after the insurrection, describing the laptop taken from his table and the broken hinges on the unlocked door.

And if you look closely in the arrest affidavit for McAuliffe, you can see the maps that appear in Merkley’s video, as well as the flag left behind.

But the discovery correspondence yesterday included a picture of the stolen laptop and the broken door among other items.

To be clear: McAuliffe has not been charged with theft or damage at all. He remains charged under his original complaint with just trespassing.

But rather than indicting him for any role in those crimes, the government continued his case until May 19, which either means he’s planning on pleading or the government believes that he (like Riley June Williams, who is accused of stealing Pelosi’s laptop) may know more about who took the laptop and what they did with it.

Or maybe the government is just waiting on DNA tests from that joint described in evidence picture, “joint.jpg,” before charging this case?