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Trump fails to launch Jan. 6 trial by Capitol cops

Trump fails to launch Jan. 6 trial by Capitol cops


Former President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Ellipse on January 6, shortly before his crowd of supporters went wild inside the US Capitol. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has not dismissed another more massive complaint in a growing pile of federal lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for the events of January 6, 2021.

“What is unique about this case is the number and type of defendants named,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta’s ruling said Thursday. “Previous actions focused primarily on former President Donald J. Trump and attempted to hold him accountable for the events of January 6. These actions included some individual defendants and some groups.

The latest discovery lawsuit, filed by seven US Capitol police officers, also named dozens of its allies and extremist groups as co-defendants: 20 individuals and six entities.

“These are not activities protected by the First Amendment”

A little less than a year ago, Judge Mehta rejected Trump’s claim that the First Amendment absolutely shielded him from liability for the violence by his supporters and the January 6 rampage of the US Capitol. The decision moved a series of three federal lawsuits forward in Mehta’s courtroom. These included allegations that Trump violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, a Reconstruction-era law designed to deter white supremacist groups from interfering with the rights of formerly enslaved people.

The law has been used more widely in recent decades to punish conspiracies to interfere with civil rights.

In November, a separate federal judge advanced similar claims by civil rights groups, again denying Trump’s request for absolute immunity.

For Judge Mehta, the case brought by the septet of law enforcement officers, led by 32-year veteran of the United States Capitol Police, Conrad Smith, is unique in its size and scope. massive reach. The defendants include Trump, right-wing activist Ali Alexander, WalkAway founder Brandon J. Straka, Republican agent Roger J. Stone, Jr. and several members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Several Oath Keepers are convicted of seditious conspiracy, including the group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes. Another seditious conspiracy trial against members of the Proud Boys is still ongoing.

Roger Stone holds his arms out in a “V” shape and flashes Richard Nixon-style victory hand signs in this photo with members of the Oath Keepers. (Photo via MJ)

Proud Boy defendants include frontman Enrique “Henry” Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph R. Biggs, Zachary Rehl, Charles Donohoe and Dominic Pezzola. The oath keepers named in the lawsuit are founder Stewart Rhodes, Thomas E. Caldwell, Jessica Watkins and Kelly Meggs.

In addition, the lawsuit also accused members of the so-called Three Percenters, an extremist group which takes its name from the mistaken belief that it was the fraction of settlers who overthrew the British during the American Revolution. These defendants are Alan Hostetter, Russell Taylor, Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele. The corporate entities of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are also named, along with Make America Great Again PAC and Stop the Steal LLC.

In a mixed decision, Mehta found that some of them had First Amendment protections for their alleged conduct on Jan. 6, while others did not.

“Several defendants argue that all claims should be dismissed against them because they rest exclusively on activities protected by the First Amendment,” the decision states. “The court agrees with some defendants but not with others.”

As for the Proud Boys’ explicit organization of a group of fighters to storm the U.S. Capitol, the judge noted, “These are not First Amendment protected activities.”

“The opposite of ‘Imminent’”

Two far-right operatives, however, succeeded in their First Amendment arguments.

“The court comes to a different conclusion as to Stone and Alexander,” Mehta continued, adding that he viewed them the same way he viewed Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr., who were dismissed as defendants. of a similar trial.

“Furthermore, neither is suspected of having participated in the attack on the Capitol on January 6 or of having done anything to support the alleged conspiracy other than engaging in protected expression,” wrote Judge Mehta.

Stone was a key figure, though mostly in the background in the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys sagas. The January 6 Committee noted that the two extremist groups had encrypted chat rooms named “FOS”, short for “Friends of Stone”. Stone appeared in photographs with members of Oath Keepers, who were assigned to him as a security detail, but “these allegations do not allege any illegal activity by Stone with respect to these groups”.

“Alexander also allegedly had contact with the Proud Boys, but not for illegal purposes,” Mehta added.

Although the defendants scoffed at the allegations of a conspiracy with Trump as “outlandish”, Mehta noted that he had previously found allegations that the former president conspired with the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were at least “plausible”. He said the same goes for the three percent. He did, however, strike Straka from the plot tally.

The lawsuit also sought an injunction to prevent a repeat of an attempt to block certification of an election.

For Mehta, however, a crucial element of that request was missing: an “imminent” injury.

“Anticipating an injury more than two years in the future is the opposite of ‘imminent,'” he wrote.

Law enforcement attorneys who filed the complaint did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump, through his election-denying lawyer, Jesse Binnall, has appealed to the DC Circuit.

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