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A Tale of Three Capitol Visitor Center Arrests: Why January 6 Is Different from Portland

By the end of the month, all of six January 6 defendants who were arrested in the middle of the riot will almost certainly have pled guilty to misdemeanor trespassing offenses.

The four guilty pleas, thus far, have led me to realize how thin their statements of offense are as compared to others who have pled guilty, even those pleading to the same trespassing offense:

The cornerstone to all these statements of offense is this paragraph describing how, shortly before 2:30 on January 6, after some Capitol Police officers told some rioters to leave and they didn’t, the officers started arresting people (the SOOs vary about whether the defendant claims not to have heard or, as with Curzio, admitted that he refused to leave).

10. Video surveillance depicted Sweet and Fitchett walking down a corridor in the Capitol Visitors Center, which is part of the Capitol building, shortly after 2:30 p.m., toward the end of the corridor area where U.S. Capitol Police officers had formed a defensive line. Other rioters also gathered in this corridor. The officers issued commands for the rioters to leave the building. Sweet maintains he did not hear those commands. When rioters refused their commands, the officers began arresting individuals who had unlawfully entered the building, including Sweet and Fitchett. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) uncovered no evidence that Sweet and Fitchett engaged in violent or disruptive conduct at the Capitol grounds or inside the building.

In Fitchett’s case, the government doesn’t even claim to know when she took a video of her approach to the Capitol with Sweet.

9. Sometime during the early afternoon of January 6, 2021, Fitchett recorded a video of herself and Sweet approaching an entrance into the Capitol with a large crowd around them yelling and making banging noises. Fitchett, with the camera turned on herself, stated in a raised voice, “We are storming the Capitol. We have broken in. Patriots arise.” Shortly after then, Sweet and Fitchett unlawfully entered the Capitol.

I find that interesting because these six arrests, almost alone of the the 560-some arrests so far, replicate a typical arrest from unrest in Portland where — according to a DOJ filing submitted in Garret Miller’s case last month — there’s just far less evidence with which to hold rioters accountable.

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.

In fact, the affidavit used to arrest the six January 6 trespassing defendants shows that the Capitol Police officer who wrote it within a day of fighting rioters for what was likely hours, actually got the time of the arrest wrong by half an hour, an error which would have made it hard to charge felony obstruction if DOJ had considered it with these defendants.

In this context, at or about 3:00 p.m., I responded along with other members of the Capitol Police to a disturbance involving several dozen people who were inside the United States Capitol without lawful authority, under the circumstances described above. I observed the crowd moving together in a disorderly fashion, and I observed members of the crowd engage in conduct such as making loud noises, and kicking chairs, throwing an unknown liquid substance at officers, and spraying an unknown substance at officers.

In a loud and clear voice, Capitol Police Officers ordered the crowd to leave the building. The crowd did not comply, and instead responded by shouting and cursing at the Capitol Police Officers. I observed that the crowd, which at the time was located on the Upper Level of the United States Capitol Visitors Center near the door to the House Atrium, included the six individuals who were later identified to be Cindy Fitchett, Michael Curzio, Douglas Sweet, Terry Brown, Bradley Rukstales, and Thomas Gallgher. These six individuals were positioned towards the front of the crowd, close to the Capitol Police Officers who were responding, and to the officer who issued the order to leave. The six individuals, like others in the larger crowd, willfully refused the order to leave.

Even though they were caught on surveillance video, the Capitol Visitors Center was one of the least filmed places in the riot. To make things worse, Capitol Police Officers were not equipped with Body Worn Cameras that day, so there’s no record of this arrest.

In other words, for six people who entered the building, the FBI may have remarkably little evidence of their doing so, but because they alone among the thousands who did enter were arrested onsite and so were prosecuted.

It’s worth comparing those six arrests and resolution with the prosecutions of three others who were also in the Capitol Visitor’s Center at almost precisely that time, because it demonstrates how the FBI had so much other evidence covering the actions of most defendants.

First, there’s Robert Gieswein. He was arrested quite early in the investigation — on January 19 — based largely on his presence, kitted out in tactical gear and carrying a baseball bat, in some of the most spectacular scenes of the assault on the Capitol, including the initial breach with Dominic Pezzola.

But his initial arrest affidavit written ten days after the riot did not mention Gieswein’s actions inside the CVC at all.

That was only revealed in detention filing submitted in June. It revealed that, at about the same time and place where Curzio and others were being arrested, Gieswein was allegedly assaulting cops to avoid arrest.

Gieswein later went near the Capitol Visitor Center, where he and other rioters encountered a group of U.S. Capitol Police officers, and he again deployed his aerosol spray on those officers. Although there is not video of this incident that undersigned counsel is aware of, the defendant is charged with spraying and then assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer in the Capitol Visitor Center. According to that Officer, a person matching largely matching Gieswein’s description took out an unknown chemical-type aerosol agent, which one officer likened to OC spray, and sprayed a group of officers, causing irritation of the eyes. One officer recalls the person who matches the defendant’s description throwing punches at police. When the Capitol Police took the defendant to the ground to arrest him, other individuals around the defendant advanced on the officers, pushed them back, and freed Gieswein, who fled the area. Parts of the aftermath of this incident, including the defendant and Capitol police on the ground, and the defendant fleeing, are captured on Capitol surveillance video.

This is one of the rare assaults charged in January 6 of which there is not (yet, as far as we know) video evidence. If that were all Gieswein were arrested on — if he wasn’t also charged with assaulting two other sets of officers and obstruction — then his lawyers might be pushing to dismiss or plead down the charges, as happened with many Portland defendants.

But the rest of his actions were spectacularly caught on film, including this scene where he sprayed cops with some toxin.

In other words, in Gieswein’s case, police tried, but failed, to arrest him on January 6, probably along with the six who pled to misdemeanors. It took some days to track him down to Colorado and the FBI never recovered the clothes he wore or his phone. But even though he may have succeeded in hiding or destroying evidence he himself controlled, and even though one of his alleged assaults occurred in one of the few blind spots in the riot, there’s still a lot implicating him in the attack on the Capitol.

It took far longer to track down Jamie Buteau, along with his wife, Jennifer. They weren’t arrested until June 23, in Jamie’s case on charges of assault and civil disorder on top of trespassing.

At the moment everyone else discussed in this post was either being arrested or allegedly assaulting cops to avoid arrest, the Buteaus were nearby, with Jamie allegedly throwing chairs at cops on several occasions. As with Gieswein, there appears to be no Capitol CCTV of one of his assaults, one of several times he threw chairs, either. But a video posted to Parler captured him picking up a chair.

And while the closing doors hid Buteau at the moment he allegedly threw that chair (as the door also hid Gieswein’s face in the photo above), the Parler video captured the chair he had just been holding flying through the air.

By the time of their arrest, FBI had tracked the Buteaus from the moment they entered the Capitol at 2:25, to their presence at between the Crypt and CVC from 2:29 to 2:31, to their entry into the CVC just behind Gieswein, back through the Crypt at 2:44, and then out the South Door at 2:46.

Like Gieswein, the Buteaus appear to have succeeded in destroying some evidence of their involvement in the riot. Jennifer was livestreaming onto Facebook the day of the riot, but she deleted that livestream and replaced it with a post blaming Antifa.

But several tipsters — including a former co-worker of another person with whom Buteau was at the riot — told the FBI about her live posts.

Jennifer also changed her Facebook profile to claim she was a Democrat, but one of her family members anonymously informed the FBI about that attempt to deceive — and also offered that both Buteaus had been in a HBO VICE show that another tipster (possibly one of the Sedition Trackers) found based off a BOLO picture showing Jamie’s face. Altogether, four different tipsters were able to provide the FBI information that the FBI (remarkably, in the case of the HBO appearance) wasn’t able to find on their own.

There were blind spots in the panopticon of the January 6 insurrection. But even defendants alleged to have committed assaults in one of those blind spots were still trackable by a slew of other evidence.

Were Proud Boys Using Livestream for Command and Control … and Other Operational Questions

Mapping out both the four charged conspiracy indictments against the Proud Boys as well as some — not all — of those with links to the groups who have not been included in the conspiracy indictments, has raised specific questions for me about how the Proud Boys operated that day and how they’re being prosecuted.

Were the Proud Boys using livestreams for command and control?

I’ve had this question more generally: whether someone offsite from the Capitol was providing Command and Control guidance for the assault on the Capitol. But the new “Leadership conspiracy” indictment against Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs mentions that Gabriel Garcia — along with Joshua Pruitt — were among those who charged on the Capitol in the first wave, along with Dominic Pezzola.

That, by itself, makes me wonder if DOJ is going to expand that “Front Door” conspiracy to include Garcia and Pruitt.

But the content of Garcia’s charging document raises more questions for me.

Garcia is a former Army Captain, so one of the higher ranking former veterans among the Proud Boy defendants. He may have been IDed by what we now know was a request that Facebook provide the IDs associated with all the livestream video uploaded during the insurrection from inside the Capitol (indeed, it was Garcia’s complaint that first led me to suspect the FBI had used one).

Based on information provided by Facebook, Facebook User ID (“UID”) 100000183142825 has a Facebook account under the name “GABRIEL GARCIA.” GARCIA uploaded to his Facebook account at least two “Facebook live” videos taken inside of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Additionally, GARCIA uploaded at least one video before entering the Capitol building.

[snip]

In the video, GARCIA is walking east on Constitution Avenue towards the Capitol building with a large group of people. 2

Approximately 20 minutes later, at 19:19:08 UTC, or 02:19pm, GARCIA uploaded to Facebook a video filmed from inside the Capitol building:

If you were following Garcia’s livestreams in real time — even from a remote location — you would have visibility on what was going on inside almost immediately after the first group of the Proud Boys breached the Capitol.

In a later livestream, Garcia narrated what happened in the minutes after the Proud Boys had breached the Capitol.

GARCIA states, “We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It’s about to get ugly.” Around him, a large crowd chants, “Our house!”

Then, as a standoff with some cops ensued, Garcia filmed himself describing, tactically, what was happening, and also making suggestions to escalate violence that were heeded by those around him.

At minute 1:34, a man tries to run through the line of USCP officers. The officers respond with force, which prompts GARCIA to shout, “You fucking traitors! You fucking traitors! Fuck you!” As the USCP officers try to maintain positive control of the man that just rushed the police line, GARCIA yells, “grab him!” seemingly instructing the individuals around him to retrieve the man from USCP officers. GARCIA is holding a large American flag, which he drops into the skirmish in an apparent attempt to assist the individuals who are struggling with the USCP officers.

USCP officers maintain control of the line, holding out their arms to keep the crowd from advancing. At least one USCP officer deploys an asp. GARCIA turns the camera on himself and offers tactical observations regarding the standoff. [my emphasis]

Garcia’s livestream was such that you would obtain crowd size estimates from it, as well as specific names of officers on the front line, as well as instructions to “keep ’em coming,” seemingly asking for more bodies for this confrontation.

At minute 3:26, GARCIA, who is still in extremely close proximity to the USCP officer line again yells, “Fucking traitors!” He then joins the crowd chanting “Our house!” At minute 3:38, GARCIA states, “You ain’t stopping a million of us.” He then turns the camera to the crowd behind him and says, “Keep ‘em coming. Keep ‘em coming. Storm this shit.” GARCIA chants with the crowd, “USA!”

Soon after, GARCIA stops chanting and begins speaking off camera with someone near him. At minute 4:28, GARCIA says, “do you want water?” Though unclear, GARCIA seems to be asking the person with whom he is speaking. GARCIA is so close to an officer that, as the camera shifts, the only images captured are those of the officer’s chest and badge. [my emphasis]

Remarkably, Garcia filmed himself successfully ordering the rioters to hold the line — which they do — and then filmed them charging the police.

GARCIA yells, “Back up! Hold the line!” Shortly thereafter, the crowd begins advancing, breaching the USCP officer line. GARCIA says, “Stop pushing.” The last moments captured in the video are of the crowd rushing the USCP officers.

In the arrest affidavit for the Kansas City Proud Boys, a footnote describes how Nicholas Ochs and Nicholas DeCarlo were similarly filming what was going on as the Kansas City Proud Boys successfully thwarted police efforts to shut down access to the tunnels.

Proud Boys Nicholas Ochs and Nicholas DeCarlo can be seen in the background recording the unlawful conduct with their phones and other devices.

While their arrest documents don’t show the two livestreaming on Facebook (and Ochs would later complain about the connectivity inside the Capitol), if they were livestreaming somewhere, it would mean live video of tactically important moments from the siege would have been available to someone outside the Capitol or even someone watching more remotely, from a hotel room or even Florida.

Certainly, Garcia’s stream would be operationally useful if someone were providing command and control remotely. Was someone?

Does DOJ now have a list of all the teams from the Telegram channels?

The latest detention motions for Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs (as well as the Leadership Conspiracy indictment) describe the process of divvying up the Proud Boys in attendance into teams, which process involves an unindicted co-conspirator who presumably is cooperating.

January 4, 8:20 PM, unindicted co-conspirator: “We had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out.”

January 5, 9:30 to 9:32 AM, Biggs: “What are the teams. I keep hearing team [sic] are picked already.” A few minutes later, [Biggs] stated “Who are we going to be with. I have guys with me in other chats saying teams are being put together.”

January 5, 9:17 to 9:20 PM, Biggs: “We just had a meeting woth [sic] a lot of guys. Info should be coming out” … “I was able to rally everyone here together who came where I said” … “We have a plan. I’m with [Nordean]. [my emphasis]

The replication of these Telegram chats, from two different channels, stops at 10AM on January 6 (they presumably continued after that time, but we know that Nordean’s phone was turned off during the day).

That suggests DOJ is likely to know what the various teams were and who led them. There were 60 people on the participants’ Telegram channel from that day, which means they may have a lot more teams to indict.

Who paid for the vans from Florida to DC?

The detention memo for Christopher Worrell, a Proud Boy who sprayed law enforcement with pepper spray, reveals that he and his girlfriend traveled to DC on vans paid for by someone else and stayed in hotels also paid for by someone else.

According to Worrell’s live-in girlfriend, who was interviewed by law enforcement on March 12, 2021, she and Worrell traveled to Washington D.C. in the days leading up to January 6, 2021, with other Proud Boys in vans paid for by another individual. Their hotel rooms were also paid for by another individual.

Particularly given that these vans were from Florida — where Tarrio, Biggs, and the key figures from the Oath Keepers all hung out (and hung out with Roger Stone) — the person that paid for these things may be on the hook for any conspiracy ultimately charged as a whole.

What kind of cooperation will DOJ get from the Front Door co-conspirators?

As of right now, just Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe are charged in what I call the “Front Door” conspiracy — the group of people who first breached the Capitol on the west side of the building. As noted above, DOJ itself identified Garcia and Pruitt to have some tie to this group (which makes me wonder if an expanded conspiracy obtained Friday will be released before I’m done with this post!).

But DOJ has not included Robert Gieswein or Ryan Samsel, who were also part of this initial assault. Neither is described as a Proud Boy in their charging documents, but both were with the Proud Boys before the operation. Both men are also on the hook for fairly serious assault charges (a cop that Samsel pushed over got a concussion and Gieswein brought a bat he used). Samsel has not been indicted and the joint request for a continuance (filed way back on February 17) explaining why explicitly states the two sides are seeking a “resolution,” (that is, a plea deal).

The government and counsel for the defendant have conferred, and are continuing to communicate in an effort to resolve this matter.

As to Gieswein, he has been indicted. But his docket has none of the proceedings that cases moving towards trial would have, such as a motion for a protective order (though given the delays on PACER postings that doesn’t definitely mean anything). And well after his magistrate docket in Colorado was closed, he submitted several sealed filings to it.

If I were someone that the government had dead to rights with not just brutal assault, but assault that was tactically important to the success of the entire operation, particularly if I had a criminal record that would add to prison time at sentencing (as Samsel does), I would sure want to help prosecutors assign some responsibility for those assaults to those who guided my actions on that day. Thus far, assault is not included in any of the conspiracy indictments (it is individually charged against Pezzola and a threatened assault was charged against William Chrestman), but if it were, it would raise the stakes of them significantly.

I’m also interested in the case of Chris Kelly. He’s not a Proud Boy. But in advance of his trip, he made it public that he was traveling to DC from NY with some members of the Proud Boys.

I’ll be with ex NYPD and some proud boys. This will be the most historic event of my life.

Kelly also made it clear the NYPD officer was his brother.

The Kelly Facebook Account also shows on January 2, 2021 KELLY messaged another user and stated, “Me and [NAME] plus a couple of others are headed down the 5th and staying 2 nights. Ill be frequency 462.662 on a ham radio if cell service goes down.” Public records databases also revealed Christopher M Kelly has a brother (“S1”) of New City, New York with the same first name used in the above statement. New York City Police Department records confirm S1 is a retired police officer. Based on this statement, and the statement above about traveling with “ex NYPD and some proud boys” your affiant believes that this comment indicated that KELLY planned to travel to Washington, D.C. with S1.

We still don’t know who a cooperating witness against Pezzola and Pepe is, who described to the FBI, almost immediately, a conversation promising that the Proud Boys would have killed Mike Pence had they found him that day. Pezzola had suspected that it was the guy who first recruited him into the Proud Boys and further speculated the conversation reported by the witness occurred on the trip home (which would help to explain how Pepe, also from NY, got included in conspiracy charges with Pezzola). That is, Pezzola believed that the cooperating witness must have been in a car with him from DC to NY.

But the government revealed that they are not prosecuting this cooperating witness.

The defendant speculates that W-1 is a “cooperating witness” with deeper ties to the Proud Boys than the defendant. The defense is incorrect. W-1 has not been charged with a crime in connection with the events of January 6, 2021, and the government is unaware of any affiliation between W-1 and the Proud Boys or any indication that W-1 knew the defendant prior to January 5, 2021.

Kelly can’t be that witness. He had already been charged at the time. But unless I missed his arrest, Kelly’s brother might be. And if his brother were cooperating (which would require honest testimony about what brother Chris had done), then it would raise the chances that Chris Kelly would be too. And why not? If I had traveled to DC with the people who initiated the entire insurrection, I’d want to make damned clear that I wasn’t part of that. Like Samsel, Kelly has not been indicted (publicly) yet.

For some time, the government had been saying they weren’t prepared to make plea deals yet. The inclusion of Co-Conspirator 1 in the Leadership indictment strongly suggests that’s done. And if Samsel and the government were discussing a plea over a month ago, you can be sure he has already proffered testimony to the government.

So the government likely has some cooperators in the “Front Door” conspiracy. The question is only, how much?

Dominic Pezzola Suspects the FBI’s Cooperating Witness Is the Guy Who Recruited Him into the Proud Boys

A number of people are pointing to this motion to modify bond by Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, the guy who helped kick off an insurrection by breaking the window of the Capitol with a stolen police shield, reporting either that Pezzola is bidding to plead out or that that the Proud Boys are turning on themselves.

Both may be true.

But buried within the filing is a far more inflammatory allegation. Pezzola, the guy who kicked off the entire assault on the Capitol on January 6 in coordination with other Proud Boys, is suggesting that someone who came to serve as an FBI cooperating witness less than a week after an attack that purportedly took the FBI entirely by surprise, was actually the guy who recruited him into the Proud Boys and set him up with a thumb drive loaded up — unbeknownst to him, he maintains — with the Anarchist’s Handbook, including its bomb-making plans.

Pezzola makes the allegation by rebutting the claim he is dangerous, the basis by which Magistrate Robin Meriweather. came to deny him bail.

As Pezzola notes, Meriweather denied him bail not because of a presumption of detention or a concern he would flee. It was because he posed a danger to the public. Meriweather framed that presumed danger as arising from a thumb drive loaded with the Anarchist’s Handbook found at his home and the testimony of a witness.

In determining that Pezzola’s release presented “danger” to the community the Court cited 2 factors from the prosecution’s proffer: (1) the claim that Pezzola participated in a group conversation when others expressed an intention to return to DC with weapons to commit acts of violence; (2) recovery of a thumb drive with plans for making, bombs, poisons, etc.

Per Pezzola’s arrest affidavit, the witness was someone whom the FBI interviewed at least twice before obtaining an arrest warrant against Pezzola on January 13, just a week after the insurrection. The description of witnesses in the total universe of January 6 affidavits are totally inconsistent (in part because so many different FBI Agents wrote them), meaning we can’t conclude anything by the description an agent uses. Nevertheless, this one was always among the only ones that seemed to be an insider. The witness is someone who described Pezzola as “Spaz” right away (though elsewhere he is called Spazzo), described Pezzola as bragging about breaking into the Capitol, and he described the group — the Proud Boys — as capable of killing Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence, and planning more actions.

The FBI has spoken to an individual your affiant will refer to as “W-1” for purposes of this affidavit. W-1 stated that W-1 was in Washington, D.C., during the protests that occurred on January 6, 2021.

W-1 stated that after the events at the Capitol as described above, he or she spoke to an individual he or she knows as “Spaz,” along with other individuals. W-1 stated that during that conversation, “Spaz” bragged about breaking the windows to the Capitol and entering the building. In a subsequent interview W-1 clarified that “Spaz” said that he used a Capitol Police shield to break the window. W-1 said that “Spaz” can be seen on the cover of many newspapers and recognizes him from those photographs. W-1 stated that other members of the group talked about things they had done during the day, and they said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.

I had thought this witness would be one of numerous Proud Boy hangers on who was hanging around in DC after the attack, but as we’ll see, Pezzola believes it’s the guy he commuted to insurrection with.

The witness first told the FBI that the Proud Boys were preparing an event on January 20th (which is consistent with other reports).

According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.1 W-1 stated the men said they all had firearms or access to firearms.

Then, in a later interview (again, remember that this is before January 13), the witness said maybe the next event wasn’t inauguration, but soon after. Whenever it was, it’d involve guns.

In a later interview, W-1 stated that the group had no definitive date for a return to Washington, D.C, but W-1 re-iterated that the others agreed there would be guns and that they would be back soon and they would bring guns.

The witness also misidentified Doug Jensen, the QAnon adherent who chased officer Goodman up the Capitol stairs, as someone else, presumably a member of the Proud Boys, only to clarify later that someone else was the individual in question.

In W-1’s initial interview with law enforcement, W-1 initially incorrectly the individual in the black knit hat in the foreground of this photograph as someone I will refer to as “Individual A.” W-1 later clarified that the person in the knit hat is not in fact Individual A and identified a different person in a separate photograph as Individual A.

Thus far, this witness sounds like he’s telling the FBI what he expects they most want to hear, something you often hear from informants trying to maximize their own value. By misidentifying Jensen, he may have falsely suggested the Proud Boys chose where to go in the Capitol. And by promising there would be more events, featuring violence (again, which is consistent with what public chatter was at the time), he heightened the urgency of case against the Proud Boys.

As Pezzola describes in his motion for bail, he suspects the person who said the Proud Boys had ongoing plans is a guy he drove home to New York with from DC.

Pezzola maintains no recollection of the referenced conversation but suspects if the conversation did occur in his presence it could have only occurred in the car on the return trip from Washington when Pezzola was asleep in the car. Upon information and belief, the CW is not detained. Rather he has reached an agreement where he is making allegations against others in order to avoid his detention for what is actually his greater involvement in the underlying events.

That would explain why William Pepe, also from NY, was named Pezzola’s co-conspirator: presumably both were in the same car speaking to the same guy, which is how the government had confidence that Pepe’s actions were coordinated with Pezzola’s and not, for example, the two other people charged with kicking off the attack on the Capitol, Robert Gieswein and Ryan Samsel.

As Pezzola describes, “it is alleged” that he’s just a recent recruit to the Proud Boys (something I don’t necessarily buy, but it seems to reflect Pezzola parroting back what he’s seen in discovery so far).

Pezzola’s alleged contact with the “Proud Boys” was minimal and short lived. It is alleged he had no contact prior to late November 2020. Upon information and belief, the prosecution alleges his first contacts occurred around that time. They principally amounted to meeting for drinks in a bar. Prior to January 6, 2020, there is no allegation that Pezzola took any action with the “Proud Boys” that was in anyway criminal or violent. His only event prior to January 6, 2021, was that he attended a MAGA rally in support of Donald Trump in December 2020. There is no allegation he was involved in any criminal or violent activity there.

He claims that the cooperating witness is actually far more involved in the Proud Boys.

Addressing these in turn: There is a claim as the prosecution pointed out that a “cooperating witness” claimed that Pezzola was present in a group when someone professed an intention to return on January 20, 2021, Inauguration day to instigate more violence. However, there is no claim Pezzola made those statements nor that he expressed a similar intent1 nor any intention to participate in any acts of violence, let alone murder. Although the defense cannot be certain it is believed the “cooperating witness” (CW) who has made these claims is actually someone who was a much more active participant in the “Proud Boys” than Pezzola, having been with the organization for a much longer time than Pezzola’s alleged association and much more active.

And Pezzola claims that the thumb drive showing possession of bomb making instructions was actually given to him by the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness.

What was unknown at the time of the prior hearing is that the thumb drive at issue was given to Pezzola, probably by the Prosecution’s CW5 when that person was making efforts to introduce Pezzola into the “Proud Boys.”

Finally, Pezzola further alleges that the guy he suspects of being the cooperating witness confessed to spraying cops with pepper spray, an assault that has not been charged (only Giswein and Samsel were charged with outright assaults on cops).

Although it is impossible to know with certainty at this point, if the defense supposition about the CW is correct, that person admitted to spraying law enforcement with a chemical agent, likely “OC or Pepper” spray during the January 6 event.

It is true that Pezzola nods to making a plea deal in this filing.

Although the Court can play no role in disposition negotiations, via counsel Pezzola has indicated his desire to begin disposition negotiations and acceptance of responsibility for his actions. He seeks to make amends.

But there’s little chance DOJ can offer him a deal that will help him rebuild his life. Even in this filing, he admits he was attempting to stop the vote count, the goal of every overriding conspiracy charge thus far, which would be a key part of any seditious conspiracy case. He doesn’t deny he broke into the Capitol; he instead disingenuously downplays the import of being the first to do so, noting that numerous doors and windows were breached over the course of the day. His claim he has never used his Marine training since his service is inconsistent with the way he walked through the Capitol with much greater operational awareness than many of the other rioters. Plus, even in his first bail hearing, Pezzola insisted he was not a leader of the attack, which — if he was a recent recruit, makes total sense (and is consistent with Felicia Konold, someone else who played a key role, but who was just a recruit-in-progress). So he wouldn’t necessarily have that much information on anyone except those who gave him directions and the guy in the car, not necessarily enough to trade as the guy who kicked off the insurrection, even if he was acting on orders.

He’s likely fucked one way or another, not least because he’d be far less useful as a cooperator if everyone knew he had a plea deal.

But Pezzola’s allegation is troubling for several more reasons.

As noted, the FBI interviewed this cooperating witness at least twice before January 13, suggesting at the very least that the FBI reached out to him right away (or vice versa), rather than collecting more information on the person’s own role. And in spite of two variations in his story — misidentifying Jensen and equivocating about when the next operations were planned — his testimony was deemed credible enough to implicate someone he may have recruited and provided other the other damning evidence on.

The FBI knew that Enrique Tarrio and the rest of the Proud Boys were coming to DC for the January 6 events, which is how they were prepared to arrest him on entry in DC. They knew that during the Proud Boys’ previous visit, the group had targeted two Black churches. DOJ had investigated threats four members of the Proud Boys had made against a sitting judge in 2019.

And yet, not only didn’t FBI prevent the January 6 attack kicked off by the Proud Boys, they didn’t even issue an intelligence warning about possible violence.

It’s possible this witness genuinely did just reach out to the FBI and try to pre-empt any investigation into himself. It’s possible that as the FBI has done more review (including of video outside the Capitol, where a pepper spray attack on cops likely would have occurred), they’ve come to grow more skeptical of this witness.

But it’s also possible that the FBI has ties with witnesses — possibly this guy, and very likely Rudy Giuliani interlocutor James Sullivan, who said he was in contact with the FBI — who have more information on those who set up this insurrection, rather than just busting down the window. Particularly given the unsurprising news that investigators are scrutinizing the role that Roger Stone and Alex Jones might have played (Rudy is not mentioned, but not excluded either), it seems critical that the FBI not adhere to its counterproductive use of informants targeting a group (no matter how reprehensible) rather than action.

The FBI has a lot to answer for in its utterly inconceivable failure to offer warnings about this event. If their informant practices blinded them — or if they’re making stupid choices now out of desperation to mitigate that initial failure — it will do little to mitigate the threat of the Proud Boys.

The Role of Trump’s Incitement in Providing Violent Foot Soldiers [Updated]

As I’ve covered, in addition to a conspiracy charge tying Zip-Tie Guy’s actions to his mother’s cheering of violence, the government has thus far charged two sets of defendants from organized gangs in the January 6 insurrection — three members of the Oath Keepers and two of the Proud Boys. While Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola is charged with assault for his efforts to steal the police shield he used to bash open a window, his co-defendant William Pepe and most other defendants identified as Proud Boys were not charged with assault (Robert Gieswein, who was indicted on his own, did allegedly assault cops with a baseball bat; he appears in videos with the Proud Boys that day, though was not identified as such in his charging documents).

Thus far at least, the most violent actions from that day aren’t known to have been perpetrated by the right wing militias, members of which appear to have, instead, channeled the violence of others, possibly while pursuing more tactical goals (like locating members of Congress).

That makes the way in which the government describes that other violence important, as it may or may not tie everything together (and tie it back to those who incited the violence).

Take Emanuel Jackson, a 20-year old black guy from DC who was twice caught assaulting cops on video. First, he was caught on film punching a cop, an assault which charging documents describe helped break the police line allowing others to stream in.

The defendant, EMANUEL JACKSON, is observed on U.S. Capitol video surveillance footage making a fist and repeatedly striking a U.S. Capitol Police officer on his person while attempting to forcefully enter the building. United States Capitol Police officers are designated as officers of the United States under 18 U.S.C. 1114.

At approximately 2:48 p.m., the large crowd that was being restrained by law enforcement overpowered the officers and gained entry. One of the first individuals observed entering the doorway is the defendant.

Then, later that day, he attempted to get back into the Capitol wielding a baseball bat.

At 4:50 p.m., the violent and aggressive crowd continued to confront law enforcement at the West Terrace entrance. The crowd was armed with various weapons and multiple individuals are observed assaulting law enforcement in the entranceway. The defendant is clearly observed in surveillance video of this entrance, wearing the same clothing described above and observed in earlier footage, and armed with a metal baseball bat. The defendant is observed repeatedly striking a group of both U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police Department uniformed officers with the baseball bat.

These two alleged assaults happening two hours after each other, the first unarmed, the second armed, attest to the sustained violence of the riot, as well as a possible intensification of it as violence came to incorporate additional weapons. Over those two hours, Rudy Giuliani was calling Senators asking for delay.

While Jackson did have a backpack on him during the riot, there’s nothing in Jackson’s file that suggests any organizational affiliation with known extremist groups (nor is there any explanation of why a 20-year old black guy would ruin his life for Donald Trump). According to a government detention motion, in an interview, Jackson described attending Trump’s rally and going from there to the Capitol.

During the defendant’s post-arrest interview, he clearly articulated that he attended former President Trump’s rally earlier that day, and that he joined the thousands of individuals who descended on the U.S. Capitol to protest the election results.

That ties his later actions to the events at the rally.

That’s important, because Jackson confessed that his goal in storming the Capitol was to delay the counting of the vote (and he was charged with obstructing an official proceeding as a result, which itself carries a steep sentence if violence is involved).

During the interview, the defendant stated that his purpose in joining the violent mob was to enter the U.S. Capitol and disrupt the vote count of the Electoral College as it met to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Thus the defendant combined his criminal intention to interfere with the functioning of Congress with multiple violent assaults – one with a dangerous weapon – on the law enforcement officers trying to protect that function.

The detention motion describes how his initial assault made it possible for him and others to storm the building.

The defendant was part of a group that tore out windows, ripped open the blocked entrance, and then physically attacked law enforcement in an effort to gain entry. The law enforcement officers are in full uniform with the word “police” clearly visible. At approximately 2:48 p.m., the defendant is observed physically striking a law enforcement officer with his fist. The punching continues for several strikes and seconds later, the mob forces their way into the entranceway and overruns the group of law enforcement officers. The defendant’s assaultive behavior in part allowed the large mob of individuals to successfully breach the U.S. Capitol, putting additional law enforcement officers and members and staff of Congress at grave risk. The defendant’s actions allowed other rioters to commit multiple other criminal acts inside the building.

So at least on this thin record, it appears that Jackson went to the rally, got riled up to disrupt the certification of the vote, and then took repeated violent actions in service of doing just that. As the detention motion describes, Jackson was one spoke in a wheel that together thwarted democracy.

The defendant was a spoke in the wheel that caused the historic events of January 6, 2021,

On January 27, Jackson’s attorney asked for a one month continuance, with the government’s consent. That generally indicates the defendant is preparing to plead before indictment (which isn’t surprising given that, before he got a lawyer, Jackson confessed to his assaults).

That means it’s possible that by the time Trump’s impeachment trial starts, Emanuel Jackson will have pled guilty to being inspired by Donald Trump to halt the vote certification, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue and then assaulting two cops in an effort to help Trump steal the election.

Update:  Hunter Seefried, whose dad was the one caught carrying a Confederate flag through the Capitol, played a key role in cleaning out the window many streamed through. The father and son pair marched over after listening to Trump.

Defendant Kevin Seefried told law enforcement that he had traveled with his family from Delaware to the District of Columbia to hear President Trump speak and that he and Hunter Seefried participated in a march from the White House to the Capitol led by an individual with a bull horn.

Finally, I have reviewed video footage posted to Twitter which shows Hunter Seefried punching out glass in a window in the Capitol complex after people adjacent to him in the crowd broke it with a wooden 2 x 4. Kevin Seefried confirmed to law enforcement agents that Hunter Seefried was asked by an individual unknown to the Seefrieds to assist with clearing the window because Hunter Seefried was wearing gloves. After Hunter Seefried complied, people from the crowd outside, to include the Seefrieds, were able to access the interior of the Capitol Building.

Barton Wade Shively, a former Marine who admitted to assaulting several cops, also came down for the rally and then walked to the Capitol afterwards.

During the interview, SHIVELY admitted to driving to Washington, D.C. with friends to attend the Trump rally on January 6, 2021. SHIVELY further stated that he and his friends walked to the U.S. Capitol grounds and that a significant number of protestors broke through the first set of barricades. After which, SHIVELY explained that he was in the back of the crowd, but once the barricades were broken down by other rioters, SHIVELY walked over the broken-down police barriers and up the U.S. Capitol steps where law enforcement officers were standing protecting the U.S. Capitol. SHIVELY stated that when he confronted the law enforcement officers, he was pushed back, SHIVELY admitted he became angered at that time. SHIVELY admitted “I got caught up in the moment.” and grabbed a police officer by his jacket and began yelling at the officer.

[snip]

During the interview with agents, SHIVELY admitted to a second incident physical and assaultive encounter with law enforcement officers. SHIVELY stated he was walking down a line of officers who were protecting the U.S. Capitol from rioters, when an officer repeatedly pushed SHIVELY with his baton and commanded SHIVELY to move away. SHIVELY admitted to punching the officer on the officer’s riot helmet.

Some Key Gaps in the January 6 Story [Updated]

DOJ continues to roll out arrests of people involved in the January 6 coup attempt.

But there are some obvious gaps in the (public) story so far.

Arrests relating to over 100 police assaults

In a filing submitted over the weekend, the government asserted that 139 cops were assaulted during the insurrection.

In the course of the insurrection, approximately 81 Capitol Police and 58 MPD officers were assaulted,

In its website tracking the people arrested so far, DOJ describes assault charges being filed against 12 people (updated on 2/1 to total 17 people):

  1. Daniel Page Adams, whose arrest affidavit describes engaging in a “direct struggle with [unnamed] law enforcement officers” (his cousin, Cody Connell, described the exchange as a “civil war”).
  2. Zachary Alam, who pushed cops around as he was trying to break into the Speaker’s Lobby.
  3. Matthew Caspel, who charged the National Guard.
  4. Scott Fairlamb, who was caught in multiple videos shoving and punching officers (one who whom is identified but not named); Cori Bush has said she was threatened by him last summer.
  5. Kyle Fitzsimons, who charged officers guarding the doorway of the Capitol.
  6. Alex Harkrider, who after being filmed fighting with police at the door of the Capitol, posted a picture with a crowbar labeled, “weapon;” he was charged with abetting Ryan Nichols’ assault.
  7. Michael Foy, a former Marine who was caught on multiple videos beating multiple cops with a hockey stick.
  8. Robert Giswein, who appears to have ties to the Proud Boys and used a bat to beat cops.
  9. Emanuel Jackson, whom videos caught punching one officer, and others show beating multiple officers with a metal baseball bat.
  10. Chad Jones, who used a Trump flag to break the glass in the Speaker’s Lobby door just before Ashli Babbitt was shot and may have intimidated three officers who were pursuing that group.
  11. Edward Jacob Lang, who identified himself in a screen cap of a violent mob attacking cops and who was filmed slamming a riot shield into police and later fighting them with a red baseball bat.
  12. Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, whom a Capitol Police officer described in an affidavit punching him.
  13. Patrick Edward McCaughey III, who was filmed crushing MPD Officer Daniel Hodges in one of the doors to the Capitol.
  14. Ryan Nichols, who was filmed wielding a crowbar and yelling, “This is not a peaceful protest,” then spraying pepper spray against police trying to prevent entry to the Capitol.
  15. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy who stole a shield from cops.
  16. Ryan Samsel, who set off the riot by giving a cop a concussion; he appears to have coordinated with Joe Biggs.
  17. Robert Sanford, who was filmed hitting Capitol Police Officer William Young on the head with a fire extinguisher.
  18. Peter Schwartz, a felon who maced several cops.
  19. Barton Wade Shively, who pushed and shoved some police trying to get into the Capitol, punched another, then struck one of those same cops later and kicked another.

While a number of these men — Fairlamb, Jackson, Nichols, Shively, among others — allegedly assaulted multiple cops, that’s still far below the total of 139 alleged assaults.

That says the FBI is still looking for a significant number of people in assaults on police. Over the weekend, the FBI released BOLO posters showing 12 other men believed to have assaulted police — including two targeting individuals specifically.

The murder of Brian Sicknick

Of particular note, while the FBI has released a BOLO poster focused on the men who assaulted MPD Officer Michael Fanone, no such post has identified suspects as those suspected of killing Brian Sicknick (though note that Robert Sanford did assault a different officer with a fire extinguisher). There are many possible explanations for why his murder might be treated differently (not least that the culprits are more likely to flee).

But we haven’t seen anything to suggest who assaulted Sicknick badly enough to lead to his death.

The DNC and RNC bomber

On January 21, the FBI increased their reward for information leading to the guy believed to have planted pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC. But there’s no sign they’ve found the guy yet.

Rudy’s interlocutors

On January 15, Rudy Giuliani posted texts involving “James Sullivan” claiming he was going to blame the riot on “John,” that he had gotten “my agent out of trouble along with three other” Utahans, and mentioning “Kash.”

“John” is James’ brother, John Sullivan, someone long ago IDed by leftist activists as a provocateur who had been charged two days earlier. He was arrested on January 14, but bailed the next day.

“Kash,” is Kash Lee Kelly, whose parole officer IDed him at the scene. His bail in the gang-related drug conviction he was awaiting sentencing for in IL was revoked on January 14.

John Sullivan is the only Utahan that GWU identifies as being from Utah, meaning the three Utahans, in addition to James Sullivan, he claims to have gotten out of trouble thus far are (publicly at least) still not in trouble. No one yet arrested is identifiable as his “agent,” either.

That means, key people who might be a pivot between the rioters and Rudy Giuliani, who was coordinating events in Congress with an eye to how much time the rioters would give him, remain (again, publicly at least) at large.

There are around 73 sealed cases in the DC District, many of which probably having nothing to do with the January 6 insurrection and some of which are surely defendants already publicly charged whose cases have not yet been unsealed in the DC docket. The reasons for unsealing could vary — though the most common would be that someone hasn’t been arrested yet). Still, some of these sealed cases may be people who’ve already moved to cooperate.

Update, 2/1: I’ve updated the list of those charged with assault.