Chrestman’s attorneys pointed to several Supreme Court cases that they said indicated that guidance from government officials can sometimes be a defense against criminal charges. They said Trump’s breath amounted to that kind of all clear to those who made their way to the Capitol during the Electoral College vote count on January 6.
“Only someone who thought they had official backing would attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did, ”Chrestman’s attorneys Kirk Redmond and Chekasha Ramsey wrote in a court filing last week.
Defense attorneys also cited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement following Trump’s impeachment that those who besieged the Capitol “believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”
Howell called the defense argument “quite interesting,” but it quickly became clear that she was deeply skeptical of its legal merit. In raising Trump’s famous comment during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and get away with it, he asked defense attorneys to appreciate the implications of his position.
“If President Trump ordered or instructed a member of the Proud Boys [to] he went and murdered someone and someone went and did that, it follows that … would he immunize them from responsibility for that criminal act? … Indeed, isn’t that what your argument says? “the judge asked Redmond.
“I don’t think so.… It won’t extend to all defendants,” Redmond replied.
Howell said that a 1965 Supreme Court case that Chrestman’s team cited, Cox vs. Louisiana, involved a question of where protesters could stand on a sidewalk and was nothing like closing a joint session of Congress. “In this case, I would say that an instruction from a federal official to interrupt a constitutionally ordered function is very different from an administrative traffic decision,” the judge said.
Chrestman faces a number of felony charges, including conspiracy to interfere with the police during a civil disorder and obstruct official proceedings. He is also accused of threatening the police while carrying a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors say he wielded the handle of an ax during the riot, using it to block emergency shutters that police were trying to close to protect themselves. They also say he urged the crowd to prevent officers from arresting one of the protesters.
Last week, a federal magistrate in Kansas City, Kan., Ordered Chrestman’s release to house arrest pending trial. On Sunday, however, Howell agreed to the government’s request to suspend that release order while he considered the issue.
Howell has ruled the release of two defendants the government wanted to detain, while temporarily blocking a series of magistrate releases across the country and ultimately ordering some of those people to be held until their trials or other resolution of their cases.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing, Howell said it was clear to her that Chrestman was in the category that he should not be released.
“He cannot be relied upon to meet any release conditions that the court may impose in lieu of pretrial detention,” the judge said. “I don’t find this case to be close at all.”
Howell said the fact that Chrestman arrived in Washington DC with “a gas mask, a hard hat and a club” strongly suggested that he was expecting a violent confrontation. He also said that his connection to the Proud Boys group meant it was dangerous.
“You call it an organization. I call it a gang, ”the judge told Redmond. “The fact that [Chrestman] Still a member of the Proud Boys is danger enough, right?
In numerous bail hearings in the Capitol riot-related cases now flooding the courthouse, just blocks from the scene of the January 6 violence, the chief judge has at times offered vivid condemnations of the attack and lamented how the episode has interrupted life in the city and countryside.
That was the case again Tuesday when Howell lamented the security fence and the deployment of National Guard troops, while noting that Chrestman’s trip to Washington last month was not taken for an ordinary tourist.
“I did not plan to look at the sites, which are now totally off-limits to citizens living in this city, surrounded by barbed wire,” the judge said. “He didn’t come to walk around the reflecting pool and look at the sites and monuments.”
Howell, who served for years as an attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee before being appointed to the position by President Barack Obama in 2010, suggested she was eager to see those security monsters removed, but wasn’t sure when or if it would be safe. to do it.
“The people who want to visit DC, the Americans who want to visit their Capitol, will they ever be able to walk freely where we used to walk?” she asked. “It’s not clear, surprisingly unclear.”