Jan. 6 rioter accused of assaulting officers praises his judge as 'hero' based on Sidney Powell's book
Courtesy US Justice Department

A Jan. 6 defendant accused of attacking US Capitol police officers with a stick praised Judge Emmet G. Sullivan as a "hero" in US District Court in the District of Columbia during a hearing this morning.

"I'm reading a book; you seem to be the hero in it," Jonathan Gennaro Mellis told Sullivan at the conclusion of the hearing. "It was written by Sidney Powell," he added, referencing the lawyer who has filed multiple lawsuits containing spurious claims that the 2020 election was stolen, which in turn fueled the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Mellis mentioned the book was about former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), whose conviction on corruption charges was subsequently overturned by a higher court. Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice, Powell's 2014 book, takes a critical stance on the Justice Department's prosecution of Stevens and Enron officials.

Mellis said his girlfriend gave him a copy of the book.

"Sidney used to be a huge fan," Sullivan told Mellis during the hearing.

"She writes very well of you," Mellis said. "It's an honor to be in your courtroom."

Sullivan revealed that Powell sent him a copy of the book, but that he was "embarrassed to tell her I only read the chapter about me."

As Mellis continued to lavish praise on Sullivan, the judge told him: "You're very kind. You've made my day."

Sullivan said he might have to go read the book over the weekend.

"Oh, my God, judge," defense counsel Thomas Abbenante said in apparent mock protest, "you've got to put a stop to this."

Mellis is accused of swinging a stick at Washington DC Metropolitan police officers at the mouth of the Lower West Terrace tunnel during one of the most violent episodes of an hours long battle between police and rioters on the west side of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, Mellis took a stick from another rioter and followed him towards the officers. Based on a review of body-worn camera footage, the affidavit says Mellis can be heard saying, "Knock the masks off," before showing him wielding the stick and striking at the officers defending the entryway to the tunnel.

"Another video retrieved by law enforcement of that altercation clearly shows Mellis' actions, and even further captures Mellis repeatedly striking and making stabbing movements towards the officers with the weapon in his hand," the affidavit says. "Mellis appears to be making at contact [sic] or attempting to strike the officers' necks between their helmets and body armor where they are not protected. Based on your affiant's training and experience, forceful strikes to the neck with (or without) the aid of a weapon to enhance impact is more than sufficient to cause physical injury or death."

Mellis celebrated his role in the assault on the Capitol by posting selfies of himself wearing a straw hat and smiling in front of the Capitol dome and inside the building, according to screengrabs included in the affidavit.

"Storming the Castle," he wrote. The world heard US!!! Finally not ignored. (Antifa and BLM will burn your city down for Marxism.) We storm the SWAMP for FREEDOM!!!! We want a forensic audit of the vote. Simple. We will not go away. We will not surrender."

Mellis also rebuked a false claim promoted on right-wing media and among some Trump supporters that "antifa" carried out the assault on the Capitol.

"Don't you dare try to tell me that people are blaming this on antifa and BLM," he wrote. "We proudly take responsibility for storming the Castle. Antifa and BLM are too pussy. They just burn your business down. We are fighting for election integrity. They heard us."

Lawyers for the parties revealed during a status conference on today that Mellis is considering a plea offer from the government.

"Currently, Mr. Abbenante and his client have a written, approved plea offer and statement of offense proffer that has been approved in writing," prosecutor Emory Vaughan Cole told Judge Sullivan.

Abbenante confirmed that he has received the plea offer, but said he is also awaiting further discovery.

Sullivan scheduled the next hearing for Oct. 6 to allow Mellis and his lawyer time to review additional discovery material and consider the plea offer.