Friday made for a very busy day in court as deals were struck, guilty pleas were entered and sentencing dates scheduled for defendants facing charges—including conspiracy—related to the Jan. 6 assault of the U.S. Capitol.
First up before Senior Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington, D.C., was ex-police officer Jacob Fracker. The 30-year-old pleaded guilty Friday to corruptly conspiring to obstruct or impede the counting of votes by Congress on Jan. 6. He faces up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. He will be sentenced in April.
Fracker, who served on the Rocky Mount Virginia police force before his arrest, was indicted alongside coworker and fellow Rocky Mount cop, Thomas Robertson. Both men were fired from the department after their arrests. Though Fracker has admitted to donning gas masks that Roberston supplied him before storming the Capitol, Robertson vows he is not guilty.
Fracker and Robertson were both off duty when they descended on the Capitol, prosecutors say, and both brought their police badges with them to D.C., though they opted to leave their issued firearms in their car before joining the fray.
Fracker admitted to prosecutors he already knew their plan was to stop the counting of Electoral College votes long before they marched on the lower west terrace of the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was inside by 2:14 PM, but found time to snap a selfie with Robertson in front of a statue in the Capitol Crypt.
Fracker, who once served in the Virginia National Guard, appeared remotely Friday, saying little other than “Yes, sir,” or “No, sir,” when addressed. In addition to conspiracy, Fracker also admitted that he posted a series of messages on social media in support of the mob violence.
In an online reference to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Fracker also boasted about “taking a piss in Nancy P’s toilet.”
Both of the former police officers were expected to go to trial next month, but now that Fracker has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate, it is extremely likely he will soon find himself testifying against Robertson.
As for Robertson, he spent the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 posting a litany of messages online that made his intentions for the day perfectly clear.
When former President Donald Trump lost to then-President-elect Joe Biden in 2020, Robertson fumed in the aftermath, allegedly writing:
“A legitimate republic stands on 4 boxes. The soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box, and then the cartridge box. We just moved to step 3. Step 4 will not be pretty...I cannot speak for others, but being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line. I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. Im about to become part of one, and a very effective one.”
Federal prosecutors say Robertson brought tactical gear, wore a gas mask, and used a large wooden stick to breach the Capitol.
Also appearing remotely before Judge Lamberth on Friday was former West Virginia delegate, Derrick Evans. His burgeoning career in politics was cut short after his arrest the day after the siege.
In reality, Evans did not make it terribly hard for law enforcement to find and identify him. Evans filmed himself with his mobile phone while entering the Capitol and screaming his own name.
”We’re in, we’re in, Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” he is heard shouting excitedly after exclaiming “Our house!” as the mob pushed inside.
Other videos captured Evans telling rioters around him: “They’re making an announcement now saying if [Vice President Mike] Pence betrays us, you better get your mind right because we’re storming the building.”
Evans pleaded guilty to civil disorder and admitted he obstructed and impeded U.S. Capitol Police. A plea deal was initially struck between Evans and prosecutors in January. He faced four other misdemeanors, but they were dropped when he agreed to cooperate. He will pay $2,000 in restitution to the Capitol and will be sentenced on June 22.
Evans could face up to five years in prison, but considerable chunks of that time could be shaved off as he works to provide the Department of Justice any information he has about the events leading up to and on Jan. 6.
Paul Taylor, a defense attorney for Evans, told Daily Kos in a phone interview following the hearing that, since a formal cooperation agreement has not yet been drafted, he expects to see Evans’ proposed sentencing length shift up or down based on what Evans does or doesn’t do.
He has no criminal background, has so far been forthcoming, and will likely continue to cooperate, Taylor noted.
“He had no intention of committing a crime but he accepts that his presence at the Capitol certainly didn’t help things and added to the chaos,” Taylor said. “His main concern is his children, he’s got four kids, all under six years old, and he provides a lot of care for them. His wife works 12-hour shifts, so when she’s working, he’s watching the kids.”
Taylor said the former state delegate was “very regretful” for his conduct.
“He’s been receiving death threats and threats to harm his family from all around the nation,” Taylor said.
Judge Lamberth also heard very briefly Friday from Jan. 6 defendants Philip Grillo and Rose Powell.
Grillo is a district leader for the Republican Assembly in Queens, New York, and has pleaded not guilty to breaching the Capitol, obstructing proceedings, disorderly conduct, and demonstrating in a restricted area.
A woman who went to school with Grillo tipped off police after recognizing his face on CNN. Law enforcement also said they were able to properly identify Grillo in security footage and a series of videos from the riot, including one recording in which he is allegedly seen holding a megaphone in his hand as he enters the Capitol.
Within 15 minutes of being inside, Grillo is alleged to have been one of the first rioters to successfully get past police officers. According to an affidavit from the FBI, he also helped open doors that ultimately allowed more rioters inside.
Grillo is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and his choice to wear a Knights of Columbus jacket during the siege—with a corresponding lodge number—also helped agents finger him, an FBI affidavit notes.
A search warrant for Grillo also pointed to damning information found on the assemblyman’s devices, including messages where he proclaimed “that they did it” and they “stormed” the Capitol.
Other footage found on his phone showed Grillo smoking marijuana inside the Capitol, asking others if he could take a hit and then inhaling when provided to him.
Video from an outside source, the FBI noted, also had Grillo on record saying: “I’m here to stop the steal.”
Grillo did not change his not guilty plea on Friday though he still has a chance. His next hearing is slated for May 26 and Judge Lamberth said he expects Grillo will use this time to review discovery and prepare for his trial.
And lastly Friday, a brief update was provided in United States v. Rachel Powell.
Powell is known as the “Bullhorn Lady” among watchers of the DOJ investigation, after footage of her using a bullhorn to direct rioters inside of the Capitol surfaced. She is also accused of using a large pole to break through windows as the riot exploded.
The FBI claims Powell is also seen on footage giving people instructions on how to get around once inside the complex and is heard telling rioters that they would have to “coordinate together if you are going to take the building.”
Powell is facing a variety of charges including obstruction, violence on Capitol grounds and destruction of property, and more.
During a status hearing that lasted less than 20 minutes, attorneys for the United States and Powell told Judge Lamberth they had yet to agree over terms of a cooperation deal.
The Pennsylvania resident and mother of eight has received an extension to consider a plea deal with prosecutors twice before. The last extension was granted after she decided to hire a new attorney.
Judge Lamberth scheduled Powell’s next court date for July 7 and she remains released on her personal recognizance.
This week ahead she asked the court to modify conditions of her release set by another judge that had forced her to wear a mask when she leaves her residence.
Pennsylvania has already lifted the mask mandates, so Judge Lamberth approved the request.
Powell took heat last April when she defied her release orders and was spotted at her job wearing a mesh, hole-riddled facemask.
Powell apologized and claimed it was an homage to pop singer, Lana Del Rey.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos