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Jenny Cudd’s Pre- and Post-Riot Endorsement of a Revolution

Jenny Cudd and Eliel Rosa were charged with trespassing together by complaint on January 12 and arrested on January 13. The arrest affidavit tracked how the two of them walked together through the Capitol.

  • At approximately 2:35 p.m., Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa, enter the U.S. Capitol via Upper West Terrace Door.
  • At approximately 2:36 p.m., Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa are observed inside the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol from the west side doorway that leads into the Rotunda. They are observed remaining inside the Rotunda until approximately 2:39 p.m. They are further observed taking pictures of the Rotunda and the surrounding area.
  • At approximately 2:39 p.m., Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa are observed walking across the Statuary Hall area of the U.S. Capitol.
  • At approximately 2:40 p.m., Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa are observed walking the Statuary Hall Connector and moves off camera at approximately 2:42 p.m.
  • At approximately 2:43 p.m., Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa are observed departing from a large crowd inside the U.S. Capitol in front of the Main Door of the House Chamber and walks east toward the staircase.
  • Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa are subsequently observed walking past the staircase and is further observed walking past the Upper House Door, going toward the other entrance to the House Chamber
  • Jenny Louise Cudd and Eliel Rosa are observed at approximately 2:54 p.m. at the Upper House Door and further observed departing the U.S. Capitol.

It described how Cudd filmed a video at the Willard after she returned, boasting that she was present when, “the new revolution started at the Capitol.”

Jenny Cudd stated on the Facebook video that she was at the Willard Hotel, located on 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20004. During the course of the video she made the following comments to confirm the location and date of the video recording, “I am sitting in front of the Willard Hotel, as I always do when I am in DC protesting,” and “I was here today on January 6th when the new revolution started at the Capitol.”

It further described an interview Cudd did a few days later, boasting of her actions.

On January 8, 2021, Jenny Louise Cudd participated in an interview with a local news station in which she describes her actions on January 6, 2021, in Washington D.C., to include her admission of entering the U.S. Capitol on the same date. Specifically, Jenny Louise Cudd states during her interview she stated the following, “we walked up the steps and walked inside an open door (referring to the U.S. Capitol).” Jenny Louise Cudd further stated, “we the Patriots did storm the U.S. Capitol.” She added in reference to entering the U.S. Capitol, “Yes, I would absolutely do it again.”

As the arrest affidavit notes, the FBI also interviewed Rosa before arresting the two of them. He confirmed that the two of them had, indeed, entered the Capitol on January 6.

On January 8, 2021, Eliel Rosa was interviewed by the FBI in Midland, Texas. During the interview, Eliel Rosa admitted that he and Jenny Louise Cudd had entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The arrest affidavit focused entirely on events of January 6 and thereafter. And while both Cudd and Rosa were implicated in trespassing, the most damning evidence in the affidavit came from Cudd’s own description of their activity.

On February 3, they were both indicted with their original trespassing charges, as well as obstruction of the vote count and abetting such obstruction.

In March, Cudd moved to sever her case from that of Rosa, arguing in part that by charging them together, the government was attempting, “to create the appearance of a conspiracy or plan.” Specifically, though, Cudd wanted to sever her case from Rosa’s both to prevent his voluntary statement to the FBI from being presented against her, but also to ensure she could cross-examine him to get him to verify that she had no corrupt plan to disrupt the vote count.

Ms. Cudd will seek Mr. Rosa’s exculpatory testimony to show that there was no advance plan for Ms. Cudd to walk into the Capitol, that Ms. Cudd was not aware they were breaking the law by walking around inside, that Ms. Cudd did not act “corruptly,” that Ms. Cudd did not “picket,” that Ms. Cudd was not “disorderly,” that Ms. Cudd did not have the intent to commit any of the offenses alleged, and, more generally and most importantly, to show that Ms. Cudd did not commit any of the offenses of which she is accused. Mr. Rosa’s testimony would support reasonable doubt for each count of the Indictment. Furthermore, Ms. Cudd would be able to examine Mr. Rosa on redirect, to place any government cross examination into context for the fact finder.

In the government response, they largely recited the same facts shown in the arrest affidavit, then noted that Cudd and Rosa traveled from Midland, TX, stayed at the same hotel, and traveled through the Capitol together.

Cudd and Rosa both live in Midland, Texas, and they knew each other prior to January 6, 2021. They checked into the same hotel in Washington, D.C. on January 5, 2021, and checked out on January 7. On January 6, they went to the U.S. Capitol together.

In her reply, Cudd cited from Rosa’s 302, describing that he did not travel to the riot with anyone, and added more details based on the receipts obtained in discovery to make it clear they had not traveled together.

Contrary to the government’s implication that the two traveled together or planned to be at the Capitol together, Mr. Rosa’s interview with the FBI shows they did not. This is further supported by the hotel receipts, which the government obtained and shared with the defense. The Willard Hotel receipts show that rooms for the two co-defendants were booked on different dates and for different prices. (Ms. Cudd paid $143 more for her stay. If they coordinated, she would have surely chosen to save that money and would not have used Expedia for that booking.) The two stayed on different floors and had dinner separately and at different times, according to meal receipts. These were not the only two Trump supporters staying at the Willard Hotel from January 5-7. A large number of other Trump supporters shared those booking dates at the Willard. And, while the two may have known each other from back home and shared political views, that is not a basis for joinder. The entire crowd of Trump supporters, many of whom stayed at the Willard Hotel, were present at the Capitol. They are not charged together.

After the government had provided some discovery, including the contents of two phones, the government response to a request from Cudd that it identify all the exhibits it would use in its case in chief repeated the same facts laid out in the original arrest affidavit, all focused on January 6 and thereafter. The response also said it was far too early for Cudd to demand a list of exhibits that would be used against her at trial.

Shortly after Cudd’s request to learn precisely which exhibits the government would use at trial, Eliel Rosa entered into a plea agreement with an expiration date of July 29, pleading guilty to 40 USC 5104, the lesser of the two trespassing charges used with January 6 defendants. His statement of offense narrated what he and Cudd saw and heard as they wandered through the Capitol together. Specifically, he described hearing gunshots and seeing a bunch of people banging on doors, possibly the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby.

While inside of the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Rosa heard two gunshots and saw 15 to 20 men banging on assorted doors. These men were wearing “MAGA” gear.

In addition to implicating Cudd in his own trespassing, Rosa also noted that he did not have any evidence as to Cudd’s intent when she entered the Capitol.

Mr. Rosa has reviewed the allegations in the indictment that relate to his codefendant, Jenny Cudd, and admits that the allegations are true, or that he does not have sufficient information to dispute or disprove those allegations set forth the indictment. Specifically, this includes that Mr. Rosa does not have information as to Ms. Cudd’s motive and intent when she entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 or whether Ms. Cudd had the intent to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding before Congress – to wit: Congress’s Electoral College Certification on that date.

This might be seen as exculpatory for Cudd, precisely the kind of testimony she hoped to elicit from Rosa at any trial. But it also protected Rosa from any implication in whatever intent Cudd did have when she went to the Capitol.

The government’s sentencing memo for Rosa provided more details about the friendship between Rosa and Cudd, which Rosa described to be a recent friendship.

In an interview with the FBI, Mr. Rosa explained his relationship to his co-defendant Jenny Cudd. Mr. Rosa and Ms. Cudd are new friends, who met at an event in November 2020. Mr. Rosa explained that he and his co-defendant Jenny Cudd held similar beliefs. Although the two were not travel companions, they both discussed their plans to travel to Washington, D.C. and stayed in the same hotel in separate rooms.

It also describes how both returned to the Willard after Trump’s speech, and only then did Rosa decide to go to the Capitol (this detail was used against him at his sentencing).

In the afternoon on January 6, 2021, after listening to President Trump’s speech, Mr. Rosa returned to his hotel, however, he decided he would follow others heading toward the Capitol after learning that Vice President Pence was not going to take action. Mr. Rosa met with his friend Ms. Cudd at the hotel and together they marched toward the United States Capitol where he knew the Congressional certification was taking place.

Rosa’s own sentencing memo explains that the gunshot referred to in his statement of offense was probably the fatal shot of Ashli Babbitt, thereby seemingly confirming that he witnessed a bunch of people in MAGA hats banging on a door before Babbitt was shot.

When he got to the Capitol he walked in through an open door and followed the flow of people going through the rotunda and towards the East gate. He heard what he believes to have been the shot that killed Ms. Babitt. After being asked to stand against the wall for a short period of time while officers dealt with that situation, he (and others) were asked to leave out the East door, and he complied immediately.

Rosa’s sentencing memo also makes clear that he posted nothing positive about the riot after he attended it; a photo he posted to Facebook stating, “And we fight,” was posted at 5:22AM that morning.

On Tuesday, Judge McFadden sentenced Rosa to a year of probation, less than the month of home confinement the government requested (I thought I heard McFadden impose more community service than the government had asked for, 100 hours instead of 60, but no reference to community service appears in the docket).

Hours later, the notice that Cudd would plead guilty posted to the docket. Her plea offer was dated September 27, with a deadline of acceptance of October 11, a day earlier (and indeed, the signatures on the plea agreement are dated October 11). Because Cudd pled guilty to the more serious trespassing misdemeanor than Rosa, it meant that language permitting the government to ask for a terrorism enhancement was included as boilerplate in her plea agreement and given Marina Medvin’s complaints at the plea colloquy, nothing Medvin tried to do managed to get it removed.

Cudd’s statement of offense included a detail that may not appear anywhere else. Not only did she admit under oath she knew the vote was going to be certified (something Rosa also attested to), but she admitted under oath that at the the Stop the Steal rallies on January 5, she heard people calling for revolution and then stated that she was “all for it.”

On January 5, 2021, Ms. Cudd stated the following in a video on social media: “a lot of . . . the speakers this evening were calling for a revolution. Now I don’t know what y’all think about a revolution, but I’m all for it. . . . Nobody actually wants war, nobody wants bloodshed, but the government works for us and unfortunately it appears that they have forgotten that, quite a lot. So, if a revolution is what it takes then so be it. Um, I don’t know if that is going to kick off tomorrow or not, we shall see what the powers that be choose to do with their powers and we shall see what it is that happens in Congress tomorrow at our United States Capitol. So, um either way I think that either our side or the other side is going to start a revolution.”

It’s not clear whether Rosa knew of this video or saw it before he stated that he had no evidence about her intent on the day of the riot.

Cudd’s statement of offense admits that she was in the vicinity of the Babbitt shooting (without specifying it as such), but doesn’t describe (as Rosa’s did) being held up while police dealt with the aftermath.

The government produced to the defense evidence that showed that Ms. Cudd and Mr. Rosa continued walking through the Statuary Hall area of the U.S. Capitol, until 2:43 p.m., when they moved toward the House Chamber and connecting hallways; the defense does not dispute this evidence.

Thus, while Cudd’s statement of offense notes that she did not, herself, enter Pelosi’s office, the statement she recorded after the riot stating that, “we did break down the Nancy Pelosi’s office door,” would have taken place after those with Ashli Babbit had done more than $1,000 of damage to the doors to the Speaker’s lobby, something charged against at least three of those present, and something that could carry a terrorist enhancement for those who did the damage.

We did break down the Nancy Pelosi’s office door and somebody stole her gavel and took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera. . . . they had to evacuate it before we charged the Capitol. . . . Fuck yes, I am proud of my actions, I fucking charged the Capitol today with patriots today. Hell yes I am proud of my actions.” Despite Ms. Cudd’s statement, there is no evidence that Ms. Cudd entered Nancy Pelosi’s office and no evidence that Ms. Cudd stole any property from the Capitol.

The next day, January 8, Cudd explained why she used the collective “we” in her statement from the day of the riot, seemingly trying to distance herself from some of the violence yet still describing that “the patriots [collectively] stormed the Capitol” and asserting she would do the same again, even after she was (at least per Rosa’s statement of offense) present in the vicinity of the Babbitt killing.

So if you watch the entire video [referring to her January 6 social media video] and you watch any of my videos you know that the way that I speak is that I always say we. So I say we the patriots, we . . . whatever. I always say we so those things did happen by other people but I was not a part of that. But in reference to it that umm we the patriots stormed the Capitol and some people went into different offices and different things like that . . . . I would do it again in a heartbeat because I did not break any laws.

The new language in Cudd’s statement of offense — describing the speakers calling for revolution — will help DOJ make a case (one they’ve already started to lay out) about the premeditation reflected in those who gave speeches on January 5.

But it also shows that she responded to calls for revolution the day before the riot by endorsing the idea, and then after the riot, she returned to the Willard and bragged she had been present when the revolution was started, ““I was here today on January 6th when the new revolution started at the Capitol.”

Marina Medvin’s Client Signs a Plea with the Potential of a Terrorism Enhancement

Marina Medvin is the sweet spot of January 6 lawyers. She’s a legit lawyer, doing particularly good work trying to challenge the asymmetrical access defendants get to security video of the attack. She clearly serves the interests of her clients rather than grifting or focusing more on scoring political points, as some other January 6 defense attorneys appear to do. But she’s also a right wing activist in her own right.

As such, she spends a great deal of time calling people she doesn’t like “terrorists.”

She uses debunked claims about (foreign) terrorists to try to sow fear about immigration.

She spends a great deal of time demanding that the 9/11 attackers be called terrorists.

She calls the evacuation of Afghans who helped the US fight terrorism the importation of terrorists.

She labels Joe Biden’s effort to craft a positive outcome out of Donald Trump’s capitulation to the Taliban as negotiating with terrorists.

She holds protestors accountable for those they affiliate with who call for violence.

She even complains when those held as — and those guarding — terrorists get treated humanely.

Yesterday, with the benefit of Medvin’s able counsel, her client Jenny Louise Cudd pled guilty under a plea agreement that permits the government to ask for a terrorism enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4 at sentencing.

To be sure, I agree with Medvin’s assessment yesterday that it is unlikely the government will actually push for this enhancement with Cudd (and I think it even more unlikely that Judge Trevor McFadden would side with such a government request). This appears to be a standard part of any January 6 plea agreement involving sentencing calculations but no cooperation agreement; one thing cooperators are getting — especially those in militia conspiracy cases — is an assurance they won’t been deemed terrorists at sentencing.

Still, Cudd won’t be sentenced until March, and the government may have a far more complete story to tell about the attempted revolution that Cudd applauded by then, a story that will likely incorporate some of the facts to which Cudd admitted under oath yesterday. You never know what DOJ will do or Judge McFadden might find plausible by then.

I raise the terrorism enhancement language in Cudd’s plea agreement not because I think she’ll be treated as one come sentencing (thus far, I think Scott Fairlamb is at greatest risk of that, because his statement of offense admitted both to using violence and to his intent to intimidate those certifying the vote). Rather, I raise it to show that even a right wing activist like Medvin agrees with my reading of the language in these plea agreements. The government is reserving the right to treat these defendants, even someone who pled down to a trespassing misdemeanor like Cudd, as terrorists at sentencing. To be clear: Medvin doesn’t think this will work legally nor does she think her client is implicated in the violence of those with whom she chose to affiliate on January 6, but that is what she described the language effectively means in Cudd’s plea hearing.

Such terrorism enhancements are how domestic terrorists get labeled as terrorists. Because domestic terrorist groups like the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers aren’t labeled as (foreign) terrorist groups by the State Department, affiliation with or abetment of those groups is not per se illegal (as it might be under material support statutes for foreign terrorist organizations). It’s not until sentencing, then, that the government can argue and a judge might agree that the specific crime a person committed involved acts dangerous to human life, and (in the case of January 6) an attempt to intimidate or coerce the policy of government. If the judge does agree, a terrorist enhancement could expose the defendant to a much longer sentence as a result, a guidelines range of 121 to 151 months for someone with no criminal history.

This is a detail that has gone almost entirely unreported elsewhere: that DOJ is building in an ability to treat these defendants as terrorists when it comes to sentencing, sentencing that may be five months in the future.

Mind you, since this would be domestic terrorism, the government could not just wildly label someone as a terrorist for attending a protest at which others present espouse violence, as Medvin has done of Muslims. They’d have to lay out a specific intent on the part of the defendant to threaten force to coerce some political outcome. But if they do so with these January 6 defendants, then they may be legally branded as terrorists for their actions on January 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Judd Claims He’s Not Being Treated as Well as the Teenager Who Got Murdered

David Judd is accused of, among other things, throwing a lit firecracker at cops as part of the Tunnel fight on January 6.

He is charged as part of the McCaughey omnibus superseding indictment covering the sustained assault that lasted from 1:08 PM through 4:19 PM with the following charges:

  • With Tristan Stevens, attempting to impede an officer from 2:56 to 2:58 PM (Count 16)
  • With assault for throwing the firecracker at 3:06 (Count 22)
  • With Tristan Stevens, assault involving physical contact from 4:15 to 4:19 PM (Count 33)
  • Obstruction, with all his co-defendants (Count 34)
  • Civil disorder, with all his co-defendants (Count 35)
  • Disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon on grounds where the Vice President was present (Count 38)
  • Engaging in physical violence on grounds where the Vice President was present (Count 46)
  • Disorder conduct in a Capitol Building, with all his co-defendants (Count 52)
  • Act of physical violence in a Capitol Grounds or Building with all his co-defendants (Count 53)

The government attempted to get Judd held pre-trial. But his attorney Elizabeth Mullin succeeded in getting him released to home detention.

He recently filed the second bid by a January 6 defendant to compel discovery to prove that he is being selectively prosecuted as compared with people arrested in conjunction with Portland riots.

Most of the January 6 defendants were vocal supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, and were protesting Congress’s certification of Democrat Joseph Biden Jr. as the winner of the November presidential election. Many individuals – though not Mr. Judd – then breached the Capitol building with the intent of interrupting Congress’s certification of the election results. Mr. Judd and the rest of the January 6 defendants are being prosecuted by a Democratic administration.

Based on the charging decisions and outcomes sought by the government in Mr. Judd’s case, Mr. Judd believes he has a colorable claim of selective prosecution when contrasted with the government’s charging and prosecutorial decision-making in violent riots in Portland, Oregon in 2020 as well as at least one D.C. riot case in 2020.

In it, he repeatedly claimed he never entered the Capitol (even though he clearly entered the Tunnel).

Eventually a substantial number – though not Mr. Judd – breached and entered the Capitol building.

[snip]

Mr. Judd never entered the Capitol building, he did not bring any weapons to the Capitol,

And he acknowledges that there is abundant video evidence against him, unlike many of those charged in Portland (which is how DOJ distinguished the last attempt to claim selective prosecution failed — there is simply far more evidence against January 6 defendants).

Of course, much of the evidence against Mr. Judd will be video evidence.

Nevertheless, Trevor McFadden — who in a recent sentencing hearing for Danielle Doyle, claimed that DOJ was treating January 6 defendants differently than last summer’s prosecutors, only to be publicly debunked by the AP — showed great interest in Judd’s claim in a status hearing yesterday, going so far as to explain what Judd needed to do in his reply motion (the government has not yet submitted a response) to succeed.

I’ve barely started examining the table Judd submitted with his motion, which lists slightly more than half — 39 of the 74 — people he says were charged in an attack on the Portland Federal Courthouse; I assume (and hope) prosecutors are doing a far more thorough job, because it’s important for McFadden to understand many public claims about these other riots are false.

Certain problems with Judd’s claims — on top of the evidentiary differences and the fact that rioters were not attempting to stop an event over which the Vice President was present and presiding — are quite clear.

For example, the case that Judd says is most similar, in which Ty Fox is being prosecuted for throwing a firecracker, Fox is being detained pre-trial and prosecuted by the state of Oregon with his federal charges continued pending that case.

On September 23, 2021, I spoke with AUSA Thomas Ratcliffe concerning Mr. Fox. Mr. Ratcliffe is unopposed to a 90-day continuance of this matter. After our call, Mr. Ratcliffe provided me with a copy of a letter outlining a potential resolution of Mr. Fox’s federal case based on the Government’s Petite Policy for successive prosecution.

I met with Mr. Fox on September 24, 2021, at MCDC -Portland, where he is being held on state charges. During our meeting, Mr. Fox authorized the Federal Public Defender to transfer his file to me. His file, and the discovery, should be forthcoming. I will need time to review and analyze the evidence and offense.

A number of the others appear to have been dismissed for evidentiary reasons (that is, precisely the reason why — DOJ argued — that it is easier to prosecute Jan 6 defendants, because there is far better evidence, which Judd as much as concedes by noting the video evidence against him in his filing).

But even more telling, Judd included the other most similar case to his own, in which Isaiah Maza Jr. allegedly took a firecracker during a mob attack on a Federal building and threw it into a the doorway of the courthouse, which injured an officer (who may not have been visible to Maza). Maza was charged with assault as well as damaging a federal building, a crime of terrorism. By including Maza in this table, Judd is arguing that Maza was treated differently than he is being because a Democratic Administration is giving him favorable treatment.

It is true that the charges against Maza were dismissed. But they were dismissed — as Judd himself admits — because Maza died.

What Judd doesn’t admit is that Maza was murdered.

Nineteen-year-old Isaiah Jason Maza Jr. was on a pass from his inpatient alcohol treatment at the Oregon Recovery Center when he was fatally stabbed near his mother’s home Sunday in Northeast Portland.

Maza had been released in September pending trial on federal charges for allegedly tossing an explosive through a broken window of the federal courthouse downtown in July and injuring a deputy U.S. marshal.

His mother, his defense lawyer and even prosecutors said Maza had been doing everything right while on release.

He had a job at Macy’s, was taking his treatment seriously, had applied to Portland State University to continue his education and was fighting to get visitation rights with his young daughter, whose name he had tattooed on his neck.

His mother Renee Maza said she was making dinner Sunday night when her son and his girlfriend wanted to walk to a nearby corner store to buy Takis chips.

“I don’t ever let my kids walk at night here,” Renee Maza said Monday. “It’s a bad area. I usually drive them. But I was cooking and I said to him, ‘There are a lot of thugs out there. You know how I feel about walking.’ He said to me, ‘Mama, I’ll be safe. We are just getting chips. I love you.’’’

Isaiah Maza didn’t get far. He was stabbed around 5:30 p.m. near Northeast 120th Avenue and Couch Street outside an apartment complex next to his mother’s home, according to the teen’s girlfriend and mother.

This is Judd’s argument: that he’s not being treated fairly because he wasn’t doubly charged in violation of federal practice and because he wasn’t murdered before standing trial.

Again, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the cases that Judd claims are similar. But thus far, his argument amounts to claiming that he’s being treated unfairly because another guy got murdered.

The *How* of Owen Shroyer’s Arrest

About an hour after I wrote this in my post on the problems with a Reuters article about the January 6 investigation…

Because of the other problems with this article, I don’t know what to make of the single piece of news in it. As noted above, a former senior law enforcement official claims that, “there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.” That makes sense with respect to Alex Jones; his videographer was arrested long ago and remains charged only with trespass.

Zoe Tillman first reported that InfoWars’ Owen Shroyer had been charged. A picture from the affidavit shows Shroyer on stage with Alex Jones and (though he’s harder to see) Ali Alexander, a key organizer for the events underlying the riot. Jones and Alexander were critically responsible for bringing the crowd first to DC and then to the Capitol, and Jones also allegedly paid for some of the rally (at a time when his show was in real financial trouble).

How DOJ charged Shroyer — at this point, just for trespassing charges — is as interesting that they did.

Shroyer is not alleged to have gone into the Capitol. The closest the affidavit places him is on the East side steps, right behind Jones and (I believe) with Alexander right in front of Jones.

The inclusion of this picture reminds me of how often Oath Keepers filings talk about the others who were also on the East side at the time they breached the Capitol.

Not entering the Capitol is not itself a bar on charges. After all, Couy Griffin was charged for his presence on the West steps, charges that Trevor McFadden didn’t throw out when he had a chance.

But Shroyer is a media personality with a claim to being a journalist. So DOJ offers more to justify it.

As the affidavit lays out, back during Impeachment 1.0 on December 9, 2019, Shroyer got himself arrested for accusing Jerry Nadler of treason.

He wasn’t charged for that until January 17, 2020, and so didn’t resolve the case with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement until February 25, 2020. What happened with Shroyer is what other January 6 defendants claim should have happened to them: misdemeanor charges in DC Superior Court, followed by a deferral.

As part of Shroyer’s DPA, he was required to do 32 hours — just four days! — of community service. He seems to have fiddled around with what entity he was going to do service with, but at one point he claimed he was going to do it with the Sinai Pentecostal Church’s Reverend Samuel Montoya, who also happens to be the father of InfoWars’ videographer, who himself got arrested in April.

Which is another way of saying that Shroyer was dicking around with the meager community service he was required to do as part of his DPA.

The other part of Shroyer’s DPA, aside from the community service he was clearly dodging, was a requirement that he not similarly engage in such disorderly conduct again at the “Capitol,” which was defined by a map that Shroyer signed, which actually may be broader than the protected space that DOJ is charging in the January 6 cases (and so easily encompasses the stage on which Shroyer appeared with Alex Jones).

Due to the nature of the offense, the DPA included the following special conditions for SHROYER:

1. The defendant agrees not to utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or to engage in any disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place upon the United States Capitol Grounds or within any of the Capitol Buildings with intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of any session of the Congress or either House thereof, or the orderly conduct within any such building of any hearing before, or any deliberations of, any committee or subcommittee of the Congress or either House thereof.

2. The defendant agrees not to parade, demonstrate, or picket within any of the Capitol Buildings. 3. The term “Capitol Buildings” means the United States Capitol, the Senate and House Office Buildings and garages, the Capitol Power Plant, all subways and enclosed passages connecting 2 or more of such structures, and the real property underlying and enclosed by any such structure.

In addition, the term “United States Capitol Grounds” was defined to include an area delineated in a map attached to the DPA spanning the Capitol grounds from 3rd Street NW on the west side of the Capitol building, to 2nd Street SE on the east side of the Capitol building (see Exhibit A). SHROYER and his attorney each signed an Acceptance and Attorney’s Acknowledgement, respectively, for the DPA. As a result of the DPA, SHROYER had special knowledge of what areas in Washington, D.C. in and around the U.S. Capitol constituted the U.S. Capitol Grounds. [my emphasis]

In other words, whereas the thousands of other people participating in the January 6 riot might believe they’d only get into trouble if they walked in the building, Shroyer had notice that the protected grounds were broader than that. And he not only may have been subject to a broader protected grounds than those other thousands of people, but it was a violation of his DPA to do it.

Plus, the government claims he played fast and loose with his community service, which meant that even though his crime was committed on December 9, 2019, his DPA remained in place until … well, it’s still in place because Shroyer did only 30 hours, rather than 32 hours, of community service, but it certainly was in place on January 6, because he had done none of his community service at that point.

As of January 6, 2021, the DPA remained in effect. SHROYER had not completed, nor reported the completion of, any of the 32 hours of community service as required pursuant to the DPA. On February 5, 2021, counsel for SHROYER emailed the Government to report that SHROYER allegedly “has completed his 32 hours of community service.” An attached log provided by SHROYER’s counsel reported that SHROYER, in fact, performed only 30 hours of community service beginning on January 19, 2021 through February 4, 2021. Thus, as of January 6, 2021, SHROYER had not completed any hours of community service as required by the DPA, and as of February 5, 2021, his community service obligation remained incomplete.

The rest of this arrest affidavit is gratuitous, a speaking document to nod to where they might go with him. After all, Shroyer was uniquely prohibited from entering the grounds and being an asshole on January 6. That’s all the government would need to charge him.

But the rest is interesting because it clearly lays out evidence — at a minimum! — that he could be charged with obstruction because he specifically talked about obstructing the vote certification 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

That is, this is where these charges could go, once they arrest Shroyer and maybe even search his phone. They’re not charging it here — and Shroyer was legally entitled to be an asshole at Freedom Plaza on January 5, as opposed to the Capitol. But they’re making it clear where they could go.

I suspect they hoped to arrest Shroyer at a status hearing scheduled for today, but he didn’t show.

Shroyer was supposed to appear in DC Superior Court on Friday for a hearing to update the judge on the status of his case, but he did not show up, according to the docket. The prosecutor didn’t ask for a bench warrant to arrest him for failing to appear, and the judge set another hearing for Sept. 23. A lawyer listed as counsel for Shroyer said that was a mistake and he was not involved in the case.

Instead, he announced the charges on his InfoWars show, looking a hell of a lot more panicked than a well-funded white guy facing misdemeanor trespass charges should be, even as a recidivist.

This is just one of 580 arrest affidavits accusing someone of trespassing. But it certainly seems to be more than that.

Update: In my post on how one would prosecute Donald Trump, I noted that DOJ has been coy about what went down at a December 12 Stop the Steal rally, probably because (I mused) they haven’t included Enrique Tarrio in any of the conspiracy indictments. As Just Security reported back in February, Shroyer was part of that event, too.

In the video, Owen Shroyer, an Infowars personality, speaks to the crowd on a bullhorn. He is standing next to Tarrio. Shroyer hands Stone the bullhorn. Stone gives brief remarks standing beside Nordean, who appears to have his hand on Stone’s shoulder. “We will fight to the bitter end for an honest count of the 2020 election. Never give up, never quit, never surrender, and fight for America!” Stone tells the crowd. After his brief remarks, Stone passes the bullhorn back to Shroyer. Tarrio joins Stone and Nordean. Tarrio and Stone engage in an inaudible dialogue as Shroyer continues to rouse the crowd. “We got stabbed in the back by the Supreme Court tonight,” shouts Shroyer. “This was never their revolution. This is our revolution!”

Update: Apparently the stage on which Owen and Jones were is within what DOJ is treating as restricted area, but thus far has not arrested anyone for. I do believe it is the case, however, that Owen’s restricted area is larger than the one DOJ has used for January 6.

Update: Corrected that Reverend Montoya is the father of videographer Sam Montoya, per JK.

Don’t Ignore What Trevor McFadden Has to Say about January 6

Tierney Sneed had a good article yesterday summarizing how starkly some of the judges presiding over January 6 cases have described it. For example, Sneed quoted liberally from the comments Randolph Moss made in sentencing Paul Hodgkins, comments that the government and other judges are quoting frequently.

“It means that it will be harder today than it was seven months ago for the United States and our diplomats to convince other nations to pursue democracy,” Judge Randolph Moss said at a July 19 sentencing hearing. “It means that it will be harder for all of us to convince our children and our grandchildren that democracy stands as the immutable foundation of this nation. It means that we are now all fearful about the next attack in a way that we never were.”

[snip]

Moss, a nominee of President Barack Obama, said that the attack “threatened not only the security of the Capitol, but democracy itself,” as he sentenced Paul Hodgkins, a rioter who pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding.

“Our elected representatives from both political parties came together that day to perform their constitutional and statutory duty to declare, in the word of the statute, the person elected president,” Moss said at the July 19 hearing. “The mob’s objective was to stop that from happening. They were prepared to break the law to prevent Congress from performing its constitutional and statutory duty. That is chilling for many reasons.”

She includes judges appointed by Democrats (in addition to Moss, Amy Berman Jackson and Beryl Howell) and Republicans (Reggie Walton and Royce Lamberth).

As someone who thinks January 6 was exceptionally dangerous, it’s comforting to hear some judges agree. But I think that, to make a case about how judges are interpreting January 6, you would need to include the statements of a judge like Trevor McFadden, as well.

Of the District Judges carrying the heavy January 6 case load, four — Carl Nichols, Dabney Friedrich, Tim Kelly, and McFadden — are Trump appointees. Unlike some of Trump’s DC Circuit appointees, they’re all serious judges, with time as prosecutors or in other DOJ roles. Trump appointees aren’t necessarily going to be more favorable for January 6 defendants. While Nichols may have burnished his right wing bonafides clerking for Clarence Thomas, for example, that means he spent a lot of time with a Justice who is generally awful for non-corporate defendants’ rights. Former public defender and Obama appointee Tanya Chutkan has already made decisions (on bail) that are more favorable to defendants than the Trump appointees, for example, and I expect that to continue (the judge presiding over the Oath Keeper conspiracy case, Amit Mehta, has also served as a public defender).

Still, as recent Republican appointees, the Trump judges are an important read and voice on this investigation. Both by disposition and record on the court, Friedrich is probably the Trumpiest judge, but thus far the most interesting case she has been assigned is that of Guy Reffitt, the III Percenter who threatened his kids if they revealed his role in the riot; in that case, she approved an order allowing prosecutors to use his face to open a laptop with pictures from the insurrection. Nichols has a bunch of cases, such as the Pollocks or former Green Beret Jeffrey McKellop, that may get interesting down the road, but thus far his most active cases have involved presiding over the plea deals of a group of people arrested on trespass charges on the day of the attack. Tim Kelly is presiding over the bulk of the Proud Boy cases, which by itself gives him a pretty full docket (but is also why DOJ really fucked up by treating Ethan Nordean’s invocation of the Kavanaugh protests so blithely); his decisions thus far have been totally fair. The decisions of Trevor McFadden, who is presiding over the omnibus Tunnel assault case, have also been fair.

I think McFadden’s statements should be included in any read of what these judges think of January 6 because he has pulled a number of the ones that, because the defendants’ political speech has been implicated in the cases against them, will provide an early read about how a Republican with solid political ties will view the balancing of political speech and threat posed by January 6.

In addition to the Hunter and Kevin Seefried prosecution (the latter of whom was pictured carrying a Confederate flag through the Capitol), McFadden is presiding over the prosecutions of American Firster Christian Secor, Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, and Neo-Nazi Timothy Hale-Cusanelli.

In these cases, McFadden has expressed a fair amount of nuance in his views as he has presided over some genuinely difficult decisions.

He did take the way Hale-Cusanelli expressed his bigotry into account when he decided to hold him without bail (which was genuinely one of the most difficult detention decisions, in my opinion, and I was leaning towards release before McFadden made the decision), but in significant part because he may have acted on those views in the past and because his promises of action were alarming and intimidating his colleagues.

Having said all of that, we don’t typically penalize people for what they say or think. I think for purposes of my analysis, I need to — I’m trying to figure out whether this well-documented history of violent and racist language does suggest that the defendant poses a danger to the community.

[snip]

I also note the government’s evidence that the defendant appears to have surrounded himself, to a certain extent anyway, with people who have encouraged this behavior and people who may even agree with him. And I agree with the government’s concern regarding potential escalation of violence at this point given all that has occurred. And I am concerned for the safety of the confidential human source. I think given all of the facts here in the government’s motion, I mention it is pretty obvious to the defendant anyway who this person is. And I am concerned given all of the defendant[‘]s — all of the things he said in the past about committing violence against those who he feels are pitted against him. And given the sum evidence that the defendant has been willing to put these thoughts into action in the past, I think I do have a duty to protect that confidential source.

McFadden did, however, release someone with similarly repugnant views, Secor, even though Secor had been arming himself, in part because Secor had third party custodians — his parents — willing to vouch for him and put up a $200,000 bond. McFadden seems to be seeking to separate out hateful speech from where that speech turns violent and, if nothing else, that struggle deserves close attention.

But he’s also not viewing DOJ’s response to January 6 as driven predominantly by First Amendment issues. In a decision rejecting Griffin’s attempt to throw out one of the trespassing charges DOJ has used — which Griffin, because he did not enter the Capitol, was uniquely situated to challenge — McFadden dismissed Griffin’s claims of political discrimination.

The Government moved to detain Griffin before trial. It described Griffin’s political views as “inflammatory, racist, and at least borderline threatening advocacy.” Gov’t’s Mem. in Supp. of Pretrial Detention at 2, ECF No. 3. The Government also highlighted the gun rights advocacy of Cowboys for Trump, as well as allegedly violent statements made by Griffin.

[snip]

Finally, Griffin complains of discriminatory prosecution. He contends that he was targeted and “selectively charged . . . because the government loathed him and his politics.” Def.’s Reply at 3. “Few subjects are less adapted to judicial review than the exercise by the Executive of his discretion in deciding when and whether to institute criminal proceedings, or what precise charge shall be made, or whether to dismiss a proceeding once brought.” United States v. Fokker Servs. B.V., 818 F.3d 733, 741 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (cleaned up). So “the presumption of regularity” applies to “prosecutorial decisions and, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that prosecutors have properly discharged their official duties.” Id.

Griffin comes up short on providing the “clear evidence” required for this Court to surmount the presumption of regularity—and the separation of powers. He points to “hundreds or perhaps thousands of other individuals ‘remaining’ in the same area” as him on January 6 who have not faced charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1752. Def.’s Mot. at 24. The Court hesitates to credit these unsupported numbers, especially as the Government continues to charge new individuals with offenses related to January 6. Nor is the Court concerned by the Government’s statements about Griffin when seeking to detain him pretrial; detention hearings require the Court to consider the defendant’s history and personal characteristics, as well as his potential dangerousness.

Griffin highlights the Government’s dismissal of charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1752 in “the interests of justice” in United States v. Christopher Kelly, 21-mj-128 (D.D.C. 2021). According to news reports, the Government moved to drop the charges after determining Kelly did not enter the Capitol building. See Feds move to drop charges for Capitol riot defendant, Politico, June 1, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/01/feds-capitol-riot-defendant-491514 (“‘Since he was not inside, in the interest of consistency in the investigation, the charges were dropped,’ the official said.”). Even so, the Government could rationally forgo federal prosecution as to most trespassers while deciding that Griffin’s leadership role in the crowd, position as an elected official, and more blatant conduct at the scene merited him different treatment. Not all differences amount to discrimination. In any event, presumably Kelly and the other uncharged protestors surrounding Griffin on the Capitol steps share his “politics,” Def.’s Reply at 3, complicating his complaint of bias here.

Griffin also points to the numerous uncharged protestors who broke through USCP barricades to occupy the Capitol steps on the eve of Justice Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation vote. See Def.’s Notice at 2, ECF No. 39; see also Kavanaugh Protesters Ignore Capitol Barricades Ahead of Saturday Vote, Roll Call, Oct. 6, 2019, https://www.rollcall.com/2018/10/06/kavanaugh-protesters-ignore-capitol-barricades-ahead-ofsaturday-vote/. Disparate charging decisions in similar circumstances may be relevant at sentencing. Cf. 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(c) (“the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct”). But this is not a basis to dismiss the charges. [My emphasis]

McFadden based his decision on this point in part on separation of powers (the basis for some of his decisions that have been deemed pro-Trump) and presumption of regularity, as well as basic facts. He deemed reasonable the possibility that prosecutors viewed Griffin’s leadership role to be more important to prosecute. He suggested he might sentence Griffin (if he were found guilty) leniently based on a comparison with similarly situated protestors against Kavanugh. But he also based his decision on the notion that Griffin’s threats of violence (raised in a detention challenge conducted before Michael Sherwin departed) could pose a genuine concern to the government.

McFadden is not treating this investigation as a witch hunt against people with right wing views.

But at the same time, McFadden has deviated from his colleagues’ more alarmist language to refer to January 6. At least twice in hearings (including on this Griffin challenge), McFadden admonished an AUSA who referred to January 6 as an insurrection. Have you charged anyone with insurrection, McFadden rightly asked. In a court room, these are not empty terms. They are also names of crimes. And DOJ needs to be careful not to accuse these defendants of crimes that — for whatever reason — they haven’t charged.

It’s not that McFadden thinks January 6 was not serious. In the same Hale-Cusanelli hearing, he described, “Obviously, the January 6th riot was a serious and sui generis threat to our country’s body politic.” But thus far (he has not presided over any of the six cases that have been sentenced yet), he has adopted a more moderate tone in discussing the event.

It’s true that, for the moment, some District Court Judges will frame how we think of January 6. In Munchel, the DC Circuit, too, described January 6 in grave terms (albeit in a passage of Robert Wilkins’ majority opinion not joined by Greg Katsas).

It cannot be gainsaid that the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6 was a grave danger to our democracy, and that those who participated could rightly be subject to detention to safeguard the community. Cf. Salerno, 481 U.S. at 748 (“[I]n times of war or insurrection, when society’s interest is at its peak, the Government may detain individuals whom the government believes to be dangerous.” (citations omitted)).

But ultimately, the six Republican appointees on the Supreme Court will have their say about what this event was — at least about whether hundreds of people committed felony obstruction in trying to halt the peaceful transfer of power. And with that in mind, commentators and DOJ would do well to watch carefully for the specific aspects of January 6 that Trevor McFadden finds most troublesome.

Terrorists in the Tunnel: The Omnibus Indictment for Officer Daniel Hodge’s Assault

One of the most spectacular assaults from January 6 was that charged against Patrick McCaughey for crushing Officer Daniel Hodges in a door.

McCaughey was charged early — on January 19. Over time, though, his indictment has become more than that — an indictment incorporating the worst assailants involved in a long brutal fight that took place in the Lower West Terrace entrance to the Capitol, deemed the Tunnel. First Tristan Chandler Stevens was added in March. Christopher Quaglin and David Judd were added in April. Robert Morss and Geoffrey Sills were added in June.

On August 4, the government rolled out a superseding indictment that adds two newly charged defendants, Steven Cappuccio and David Mehaffie, and incorporates Freddie Klein into the existing one; it was unsealed yesterday after Cappuccio and Mehaffie were arrested.

A notice filed in both the McCaughey and Klein dockets on July 29 explains the logic of this indictment.

All nine of these individuals are or will be charged primarily with assaultive conduct on law enforcement officers in and around the first landing of the Lower West Terrace as well as the Lower West Terrace archway, colloquially referred to as “the tunnel,” of the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, between approximately 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. This tunnel entranceway to the Capitol Building, which is approximately ten feet wide, was the site of a significant physical confrontation with law enforcement for several hours. Each of these defendants was an active participant in the first wave of rioters to enter the tunnel between 2:40 and 3:18 p.m., at which time law enforcement successfully cleared the tunnel of rioters for the first time that day. Moreover, several of the defendants, including Mr. Klein, committed additional crimes on the first landing of the Lower Wester Terrace before reaching the tunnel for the first time. Accordingly, because the primary criminal conduct alleged against these individuals overlaps both temporally and geographically, and the evidence against them will be mutually admissible, including the testimony of witnesses and their victims, the government is preparing to charge this group in a single indictment and to present evidence against them in a single trial.

The same notice says that while there are “dozens” of people who committed crimes along with these defendants, they do “not expect” to add any other defendants to this one.

I’ve tried to lay out which defendants got charged with what crimes using what weapons in this table. Altogether, I think this indictment does four different things.

First, Cappuccio is charged with grabbing Hodges’ gas mask and pulling if off and then stealing his police baton.

McCaughey is the guy whose name is on this indictment and who has, since the days after the riot, been one of the chief focal points because of that assault. But Cappuccio was actually the guy alleged to be doing to the most harm to Hodges (a point that McCaughey nodded to in a successful bid to get pretrial release). Cappuccio has finally been added alongside McCaughey, charged in one of the signature assaults of the attack.

Second, this indictment charges Mehaffie along with a bunch of people he gave instructions to during the hours long assaults, as captured by his Sedition Hunter moniker, Tunnel Commander and explained by HuffPo.

Dave Mehaffie of Dayton, Ohio, was known to online investigators as #TunnelCommander because he was issuing orders to members of the mob who were attacking officers during a brutal battle at the lower western terrace entrance to the Capitol. Mehaffie was 86-AFO on the FBI’s Capitol wanted list, meaning he was wanted for assault on a federal officer.

A judge signed an arrest warrant for Mehaffie on Aug. 4 after he was indicted by a grand jury as part of an existing case.

Mehaffie was involved in one of the toughest battles of the Capitol siege. Members of the mob had stormed past police barriers and ascended the scaffolding set up for President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and were attempting to break into the building. During the “medieval” battle, members of the pro-Trump mob kidnapped D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was repeatedly electroshocked. Rosanne Boyland, a pro-Trump member of the mob, was trampled during the brutal clash. The woman’s brother-in-law said that former President Donald Trump “incited a riot” that killed one of his “biggest fans.”

Alone among these nine defendants, Mehaffie is not charged with assault using a dangerous weapon and/or directly striking the officer victim (that’s roughly speaking the difference between the 111(a)(1) charges and the 111(b) charges in the table). Instead, Mehaffie is charged with one count of assault and abetting assault, lasting from 2:40 to 3:18, presumably amounting to his directing the assaults of the others, along with civil disorder and obstruction. But that doesn’t convey the seriousness of his actions, because he had a role in making the other assaults more effective.

That’s why including him on this omnibus indictment will be important. By charging all nine men together, DOJ will be able to show how these men, who aren’t alleged to have known each other before the assault and aren’t charged with conspiracy, nevertheless worked in concert, always ensuring there were people at the front to press the assault, with Mehaffie playing a key role in making it all work (Morss, too, had a key role in directing traffic in the tunnel, which will also become clearer at trial with all charged together). In isolation, these men’s assaults can be minimized. In concert, their actions had a devastating effect.

Finally, Klein’s inclusion does more than just get him added to what will be a very powerful trial. He was originally indicted, on March 19, with just one count of assault. By April 5, in a detention memo, DOJ described three different assaults. So DOJ was bound to supersede his initial indictment in any case. This superseding indictment charges him in six different assaults (I think I’ve bolded the ones that appeared in the April detention memo), the culmination of seven months of video review to understand his role.

It also might get Klein detained. Of the seven men who had already been charged, Stevens was released on arrest, McCaughey got released with a huge bond payment, and Judd was released after review. The government successfully fought to keep Quaglin and Morss detained, sustaining Quaglin’s detention on appeal.

Klein also fought successfully for release. Along the way, his attorneys pointed to the conduct of McCaughey and two other of his now co-defendants, claiming they were more dangerous.

Contrast these cases, and the allegations against Mr. Klein, with others detained pretrial and alleged to have engaged in far more egregious conduct including having pinned an officer between a door and a riot shield (McCaughey – 21-cr-00040); violently assaulting an officer in the side of the neck with a riot shield and spraying chemical irritant directly into the eyes of an officer (Quaglin – 21-mj-00355); repeatedly throwing objects, including a pole, a desk drawer, some type of pipe/metal rod, and a flagpole at officers (Jenkins – 21-cr-00245); lighting and throwing fireworks at officers (Judd – 21-mj-00334), and striking an officer so violently with a pole that it shatters on his riot shield (Palmer – 21-mj-00301).

John Bates released Klein (in an opinion that significantly lowered the bar on releasing violent assault defendants). And while the release itself was a defensible decision, Bates’ logic (in my opinion) was not. Bates treated Klein’s assault on the Capitol, as a State Department official, as a breach of trust, but also credited him with having held a security clearance, as if having a cleared individual attack his own government isn’t particularly dangerous (as the government successfully argued in Timothy Hale-Cusanelli’s case). Crazier still, Bates said that Klein’s assaults weren’t as bad as others because his objective was not to injure the police but instead to occupy the tunnel, the use of violence for political end.

The government’s contention that Klein engaged in “what can only be described as hand-to-hand combat” for “approximately thirty minutes” also overstates what occurred. See Gov’t’s Br. at 6. Klein consistently positioned himself face-to-face with multiple officers and also repeatedly pressed a stolen riot shield against their bodies and shields. His objective, as far as the Court can tell, however, appeared to be to advance, or at times maintain, the mob’s position in the tunnel, and not to inflict injury. He is not charged with injuring anyone and, unlike with other defendants, the government does not submit that Klein intended to injure officers. Compare Hr’g Tr. 57:12–18 (government conceding that the evidence does not establish Klein intended to injure anyone, only that “there was a disregard of care whether he would injure anyone or not” in his attempt to enter the Capitol), with Gov’t’s Opp’n to Def.’s Mot. to Reopen Detention Hearing & For Release on Conditions, ECF No. 30 (“Gov’t’s Opp’n to McCaughey’s Release”), United States v. McCaughey, III, 21-CR-040-1, at 11 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 2021) (government emphasizing defendant’s “intent to injure” an officer who he had pinned against a door using a stolen riot shield as grounds for pretrial detention). And during the time period before Klein obtained the riot shield, he made no attempts to “battle” or “fight” the officers with his bare hands or other objects, such as the flagpole he retrieved. That does not mean that Klein could not have caused serious injury— particularly given the chaotic and cramped atmosphere inside the tunnel. But his actions are distinguishable from other detained defendants charged under § 111(b) who clearly sought to incapacitate and injure members of law enforcement by striking them with fists, batons, baseball bats, poles, or other dangerous weapons.

[snip]

Klein’s conduct was forceful, relentless, and defiant, but his confrontations with law enforcement were considerably less violent than many others that day, and the record does not establish that he intended to injure others. [my emphasis]

Klein is now the co-defendant of McCaughey, Judd, and Quaglin, charged in more assaults than McCaughey and Judd, which might make his own prior comparison with them backfire. More importantly, Klein’s inclusion in this larger indictment makes it clear how his actions cannot be viewed — as Bates did — as isolation actions, but were instead an integral part of some of the worst clashes of the day.

I have no idea whether DOJ will use this superseding indictment to move to get Klein’s release revoked. But he’s on the edge anyway: since his release, he has had several release violations for things like drinking enough wine at dinner with his mom that he decided to just stay over the night in violation of curfew. Thus far, John Bates hasn’t deemed Klein’s disrespect for the authority of the Court to be worth detaining him over. Trevor McFadden, under whom Klein’s case will be moved, has similarly been reluctant to revoke bail (though the most notable January 6 defendant where he did revoke bail, Brandon Fellows, is only charged with obstruction and may have mental health issues contributing to his refusal to follow release conditions). But he has far less patience with defendants who openly disdain the Court’s authority, as Klein has.

Last week, I noted that the government had made a record that they are entitled to invoke a terrorist enhancement for Scott Fairlamb at sentencing (his sentencing has been bumped to November to give the probation office time to finish the presentencing memo).

Like Fairlamb, all these defendants are also charged with obstruction. If proven at trial, that would mean a jury found there was an intent behind their serial, extended, coordinated assaults: to occupy the Capitol (as even Judge Bates described it) and in so doing to halt the vote count. These men are accused of violence in the service of preventing the peaceful transfer of power. And as such, I would be shocked if on this most spectacular of assault trials, DOJ didn’t also go after a terrorism enhancement.

In his testimony before the January 6 Commission, Jamie Raskin asked Hodges why he referred to terrorism or terrorists 15 times. Hodges read the legal definition of domestic terrorism:

Activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state, and, b, appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.

If this omnibus case goes to trial it will demonstrate how all these assaults worked in concert to sustain an assault on our democracy for thirty-eight minutes. Officer Hodges may have his vindication at labeling these men terrorists.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Barricades: Newly Discovered Video Depicting Timothy Hale-Cusanelli

Last week, I reluctantly argued that Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a Nazi-sympathizer, may have been overcharged and based on that detained for four months.

I think it likely that DOJ has made an error, of another sort, with Nazi sympathizer Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, detaining him for four months based off a mistaken belief he played a more important role in January 6 violence than he did.

Hale-Cusanelli was arrested on January 15, three days after a co-worker of his, who was already an NCIS informant, alerted the FBI that Hale-Cusanelli took part in the riots and had, in the past, espoused fairly extreme white supremacist views. On January 14, the informant recorded Hale-Cusanelli describing giving hand signals to the mob and taking a flag that Hale-Cusanelli described as a “murder weapon” to destroy.

Hale-Cusanelli’s arrest warrant, which charged him with the misdemeanor trespassing charges everyone gets charged with along with a civil disorder charge, included no video from the day of the attack. When the government indicted him, they added obstruction charges and abetting.

[snip]

But the accompanying discovery summary in fact seems to confirm what Zucker has said: he has received no or next to no surveillance video of his client in the Capitol, and what he has gotten appears to pertain primarily to a different person he represents (Zucker also represents Jerod Wade Hughes and Thomas Webster, and did represent Dominic Pezzola for a period).

[snip]

This guy has absolutely loathsome views. But they are views protected by the First Amendment — and also views shared by a goodly percentage of the other January 6 defendants, many of them out on personal recognizance. The others who, like Hale-Cusanelli, were of particular concern to the government because they held clearance on January 6 also engaged in physical assault — and Freddie Klein was released even after that. As I noted, the government spent two months confirming details of active duty Marine, Major Christopher Warnagiris’ far more important conduct from the day before arresting him, and then let him out on personal recognizance.

While the government has provided evidence that he did intend to obstruct the vote count, nothing in his conduct from the day substantiates the civil disorder challenge. Yesterday, Fifield asked for two more months to find that evidence.

The other day, Hale-Cusanelli had a court hearing to discuss two things: replacing Jonathan Zucker, and speedy trial waiver. The hearing started with Judge Trevor McFadden granting the request for a new lawyer. And based partly on having just obtained a new lawyer, McFadden granted some of the government’s request for another month continuance.

That is, by changing lawyers, Hale-Cusanelli relieved the pressure on the government to substantiate the case against him immediately (though he is appealing his detention so will get that opportunity before the DC Circuit).

That said, in the discussion of swapping lawyers, Zucker explained that a video he had just received presented the bulk of the evidence against his client (and seemed convinced that it was substantial evidence).

While it may not be the same video, a researcher found a YouTube that depicts Hale-Cusanelli, working in concert with the most organized of the insurrectionists, moving police barriers.

This is the kind of evidence that, against other defendants, has substantiated the 231 civil disorder charges that I had previously expressed skepticism about. So I retract my concern that Hale-Cusanelli is overcharged.

Note, this is also a testament to something I’ve pointed out elsewhere: While there’s this sense that all the video from the event has created a panopticon of the event, one the participants contributed to, there are gaps in that panopticon, particularly where insurrectionists were battling Capitol Police who (unlike MDP officers) were not equipped with Body Worn Cameras the day of the event. Plus, the scaffolding set up for the inauguration may have obscured some other actions.