Matt Braynard, the organizer of tomorrow's "Justice for J6" rally at the US Capitol, has said the event will highlight the supposedly unfair treatment "nonviolent offenders" and "political prisoners" facing charges related to the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol "who've been held in solitary confinement" and denied bail.
In a video promoting the event, he has described the prosecution of the Capitol rioters as a "grave violation of the civil rights of hundreds of fellow Americans."
The facts are not on Braynard's side.
The conflation of the total number of people charged with federal offenses at the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the miniscule share who are being held in pre-trial detention obscures an important fact: The vast majority of the defendants are out on pre-trial release, on high-intensity supervision or in home confinement. They are not prisoners, much less being held in solitary confinement or denied medical treatment.
More than 600 people have been charged so far with federal offenses related to conduct at the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the US Justice Department. Based on a random sample of 61 defendants with pending charges, Raw Story found that only four, or 6.6 percent, are being held in pre-trial detention.
A higher share of Proud Boys, which include defendants roped into three separate conspiracy cases, are in jail awaiting trial. There are eight jailed Proud Boys out of 27 members of the group facing charges, which is less than a third. Among members of the Oath Keepers — the other major paramilitary group involved in the assault on the Capitol — an even smaller number are incarcerated: Among the 22 members charged, including 17 facing conspiracy charges, only three are in jail. Five have struck plea deals.
Among six members of So Cal 3%, the largest Three Percenter group involved in the assault on the Capitol, none are in jail, although seventh defendant who joined the six men in a planning group on the Telegram app is subject to a detention order.
"So, this is really about fighting the narrative about what happened on Capitol Hill on January 6th," Braynard said on the "War Room Pandemic" show with Steve Bannon earlier this month. That much is true. But then Braynard went on to argue that "most people are really on our side on this issue. If you think that somebody who is accused of a nonviolent offense like trespassing should be held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for nine months without access to bail, without medical care — if you have a problem with that, you're on our side."
The most prominent example of a Jan. 6 defendant held in solitary confinement is Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy and Marine Corps veteran from Rochester, NY who stole a riot shield from a UC Capitol police officer and used it to smash out a window in the initial breach of the Capitol building. Although he faces a charge of entering a restricted building or grounds, by no stretch is it the most serious offense on his indictment, which also includes conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement, robbery of personal property, assaulting officers, and destruction of government property.
Pezzola has a pending motion for bond, with a request to be released from jail to high-intensity supervision, that is scheduled to be heard next week in DC District Court.
In addition to arguing that the conditions in the jail violate his human rights and that he is being deprived of effective counsel because he can't meet with his lawyer in private, Pezzola's motion cites "the presumption against bail for pretrial detainees," but doesn't explain why the government has not met its burden in establishing that the "no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community."
In the original order denying Pezzola bail in February, Magistrate Robin Meriwether spelled out the danger posed by Pezzola's release as the prospect 'that he would engage in conduct similar to or worse than the charged offenses, specifically attempting to thwart the democratic process by violent means or engaging in violence against government officials.
Meriwether's order cited two factors as a basis for her [ck] decision: "(1) Mr. Pezzola's alleged participation in a group discussion about plans to return to Washington DC with weapons, in which members asserted that they would have killed Vice President Pence or any other person they got their hands on; (2) the fact that law enforcement found a thumb drive in Mr. Pezzola's house containing files that included instructions for making bombs, firearms and poisons. Although no material for making bombs or poison are alleged to have been recovered, and the group's alleged plans to return to DC have not come to fruition, the potential for future violent conduct in support of overturning the election of President Biden is too great to be adequately mitigated by any release conditions."
Other Proud Boys who remain in detention include national organizer Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean, aka Rufio, Philadelphia chapter president Zachary Rehl, and North Carolina Piedmont chapter president Charles Donohoe. The four are charged with conspiracy to obstruct Congress' certification of the electoral vote. The three other jailed members are Matthew Greene, who is part of the same conspiracy case with Pezzola; William Chrestman, who is accused of dismantling barriers outside the Capitol and addressing rioters by saying, "Do you want your house back?... Take it?"; and Christopher Worrell, who is accused of spraying pepper-spray gel at officers.
Among the Oath Keepers, the three members awaiting trial in detention are Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson. Watkins is an Ohio militia leader who allegedly recruited and trained for Jan. 6 and is described by the government as "a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol." Meggs, the leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, stated in a text message that he had looked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to a friend's comment that he was "hoping to see Nancy's head rolling down the front steps." Harrelson, the designated "ground team lead" for Florida, and reportedly assembled a "go bag" while anticipating arrest for his role in the assault on the Capitol that included a handgun, burner cell phone and a copy of Technological Slavery: The Collected Writing of Theodore J. Kaczynski aka 'The Unabomber.'
Meanwhile a number of Capitol rioters who have engaged in violent or provocative conduct are not in custody as they await trial.
• Eric Munchel, a Nashville man who was photographed vaulting over railing in the Senate chamber with zip ties hanging from his waist;
• Jeffrey Grace, a Proud Boy, who clashed with antifascists in Portland, Ore., and carried a pistol during a paramilitary border patrol near El Paso, Texas, while out on bond;
• Richard Barnett, an avowed white nationalist from Arkansas, who propped his feet up on Pelosi's desk and had reportedly pointing a rifle at a car with a "Black Lives Matter" sticker; and
• Gabriel Augustin Garcia, a Proud Boy and retired Army captain, told viewer on his livestream: "We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It's about to get ugly." He allegedly shouted at US Capitol police officers attempting to hold the line: "You f***ing traitors! You f***ing traitors. F*** you."
Jeffrey Scott Brown of Santa Ana, Calif. is accused of deploying chemical spray on police officers and joining in a crowd that pushed against Metropolitan police officers in the Lower West Terrace tunnel, resulting in one officer having his gas mask ripped off and bleeding from the mouth. A magistrate judge initially denied the government's motion to hold Brown in custody. Brown was part of the California Patriots-DC Brigade Telegram group, along with members of So Cal 3%.
US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras overturned the previous decision and ordered Brown back into custody on Sept. 3.
Contreras noted that the FBI found weapons in Brown's home, including a taser, multiple cans of pepper spray and a baseball bat. Brown had argued that he kept the taser because his work required him to venture into unfamiliar neighborhoods.
"But this explanation does not add up," Contreras wrote. "For instance, even though a camper might reasonably have a receipt for a can of bear spray, that does not explain why Brown has multiple cans of pepper spray, too. Indeed, the label on one of the cans states that the product 'is designed to be used by professional law enforcement, military, corrections and security personnel.' Similarly, the baseball bat's short length and 'Tire Striker' name make it doubtful that Brown uses it in a softball league."
The judge also took note of a Dec. 14 incident in which Brown reportedly climbed on a table at a Costco store in Tustin, Calif. and yelled through a bullhorn to protest the state's COVID restrictions.
"The defendant's characteristics do not inspire confidence that he will not pose a danger to the community," Contreras wrote. "While he was not charged or convicted, the incident demonstrates his lack of self-control…. It should be noted that this disorderly conduct followed the 2020 US presidential election, and that the defendant's behavior on that December day was not a 'one-off' event, but rather a primer of what was to come in the next months, when he committed violent act on January 6, 2021."