Ryan Nichols, a Marine Corps veteran facing felony charges in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, has spent 11 months in pre-trial lockup at the DC Central Detention Facility.
By filing a motion for modification of bail to allow conditional release pending trial, Nichols forced the government to lay out evidence of his dangerousness to the American public, which reveals extensive advance coordination with other rioters and Nichols’ leadership role.
Explaining his decision from the bench on Monday evening, Judge Thomas F. Hogan said that Nichols’ calls for civil war, coordination with other rioters, violent conduct at the Capitol on Jan. 6, subsequent calls for future violence, and leadership role all weigh in favor of his continued detention.
Nichols and his codefendant, Alex Harkrider, have volunteered for hurricane rescue and disaster relief efforts, and Nichols’ lawyer argued before the court on Monday that Nichols’ preparations to travel from Texas to Washington DC in January 2021 were consistent with what they would do for a search-and-rescue mission.
Joseph McBride, Nichols’ lawyer, explained Nichols’ decision to bring steel-toe boots, GoPro camera, crowbar and chest plate as reasonable measures to protect himself from Black Lives Matter and Antifa as he attended the Save America Rally as a peaceful protester.
Judge Hogan indicated he was unimpressed with McBride’s characterization of his client.
“This was not a rescue mission,” Hogan said.
The judge dismissed McBride’s explanation that Nichols carried weapons and protective gear based on his experience volunteering for relief efforts in “high-crime areas,” saying, “There has been no Antifa identified as attacking individuals protesting the election.”
The government presented transcripts of Nichols’ GoPro video on Jan. 5 to show as evidence that his preparation efforts were geared towards law enforcement and lawmakers, not counter-protesters.
The videos reportedly show Nichols in a large crowd on Jan. 5 saying, “Cops don’t know what’s going on. Too many of us, not enough of them,” and later yelling, “Those people in [the] f*cking Capitol building are our enemy,” according to a motion filed by the government.
The video captures one of the men saying, “There’s gonna be a f*cking war tomorrow,” and then, “You can’t stop what’s coming tomorrow,” according to the motion.
“The night before when he walked the streets and told the police to watch out and be prepared for war, he was not talking about Antifa,” Hogan observed.
Nichols’ tirade on Facebook Live while marching from the Ellipse to the Capitol on Jan. 6 even more explicitly outlines his intentions.
Trump’s surrogates had promoted the legally unfounded idea that Vice President Mike Pence could intervene to prevent the certification of the electoral vote, stoking his supporters' hopes and then fueling their rage when Pence declined to go along with the plan.
“I’m hearing reports that Pence caved,” Nichols told his followers on Facebook. “I’m telling you if Pence caved, we’re gonna drag mother*ckers through the streets. You f*cking politicians are going to get f*cking dragged through the streets. Because we’re not going to have our election or our country stolen. If we find out you politicians voted for it, we’re going to drag your f*cking ass through the streets. Because it’s the second f*cking revolution and we’re f*cking done.”
In the video the government played in court on Monday, others in the crowd can be heard chanting in response: “USA! USA! USA!”
On Jan. 6, Nichols and Harkrider made their way to the front of a mob and attempted to break through a line of Metropolitan police officers guarding the tunnel entrance to the Capitol at the Lower West Terrace. The government accuses the defendants of taking a canister of pepper spray from another rioter and dispersing two blasts of spray at the line of officers.
Later, Nichols and Harkrider climbed through a broken window into a conference room and barricaded the doors with desks and chairs, according to the government. Then the two men exited the conference room, and Nichols allegedly took a bullhorn from another rioter and waved his crowbar as he gave a speech.
“They are talking about using lethal force against you,” Nichols told the other rioters.
“Get in the building!” he told them. “Get in the building!”
“This is not a peaceful protest,” Nichols continued. “If you have a weapon, you need to get your weapon!”
The government clinched its argument that Nichols’ pre-trial release would pose a danger to the American public by playing a Facebook Live video the defendant recorded at 8:13 p.m. on Jan. 6, following the mayhem at the Capitol.
“Yes, we are calling for violence at this point!” he said, referring to himself in third person. “So, if you want to know where Ryan Nichols stands, Ryan Nichols stands for violence! Ryan Nichols is done allowing his country to be stolen and I understand that the first revolutionary war, folks, it was violent. We had to be violent to take our country back. Well, guess what? The second revolutionary war — right now, the American revolutionary war that’s going on right now — it started today."
“It’s going to be violent,” he continued. “And yes, if you are asking is Ryan Nichols going to bring violence? Yes, Ryan Nichols is going to bring violence.”
The government deflected McBride’s argument that his client was just someone who heeded President Trump’s call to protest purportedly election fraud and got caught up in the moment.
As early as Nov. 20, 2020, according to the government, Nichols told friends on Facebook: “War is the answer to terrorism. Hope that democracy wins, because war will be next. The narrative is already set for civil unrest. What happens next will not be good for this country.”
On Dec. 24, he reportedly wrote: “Any Democrat found guilty of treason should be executed. Any Republican found guilty of treason should be VIOLENTLY executed!”
And on Dec. 28: “Pence better do the right thing, or we’re going to MAKE you do the right thing.” Again, on the same day: “The time for games is OVER. Patriots will be in Washington DC on Jan 6th! If Pence doesn’t do the right thing, WE FIGHT.”
The government also cited texts exchanged between Nichols and Harkrider in the run-up to Jan. 6 that show Nichols was coordinating with other groups that were preparing for events at the Capitol on the day of the electoral certification. Among them is a Dec. 14, 2020 text from Nichols telling Harkrider that he was considering joining the Proud Boys. Two days earlier, the Proud Boys had roamed the streets of downtown Washington DC attempting to provoke fights with counter-protesters and local residents following a pro-Trump rally. Nichols’ lawyer told the court on Monday that regardless of his intentions, his client didn’t wind up joining the Proud Boys, while Assistant US Attorney Luke Matthew Jones noted that there likely wouldn’t have been time to process his application.
Nichols is at least the second Texas Jan. 6 defendant who is alleged to have communicated with the Proud Boys in advance of the assault on the Capitol. While multiple sets of defendants have been charged with conspiracy within particular groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, to date the government has not alleged a conspiracy among members of the various groups.
Lucas Denney, founder of the Patriot Boys militia, is alleged to have told codefendant Donald Hazard on Dec. 25, 2020: “I’ve been in contact with a few different chapters, and they’re helping us with safe hotels to get.”
According to the charging document in his case, Denney made multiple references in private messages in late December 2020 and early January 2021 to coordinating with other militia “commanders” in advance of the assault on the Capitol.
“A lot of the presidents and commanders of militias like myself are meeting on the 5th to organize and plan,” Denney said, according to a Dec. 31 Facebook message cited by the government.
Nichols similarly was communicating with others on Zello, an app used by militias and volunteer first responders.
According to the government, Nichols sent Harkrider screenshots of Zello alerts with the headings “J6 & J20,” “STOPTHESTEAL operation,” “chat to debrief discuss and decide the #SavetheStealJ20 Intel Brief posted above” and “stand up boots online and boots on the ground rallypoint.”
“Are you ready bro?” Nichols asked Harkrider on Dec. 27. “1775 is about to go down in this bitch.”
Then, he added, “We’ve got front seat tickets to the REAL revolution.”
Denney had a similar message to an unidentified contact on Facebook on Jan. 5, according to the government: “Things are going to be happening here. Trump is going to be speaking to everyone Wed before everyone marches to the capital. Rumour has it that he may march with us. I’ll tell you more when you get here on where to be and what time so you have the best seats.”