Politics On January 6, the judge drew flak for his...

On January 6, the judge drew flak for his post-plea comments on a prominent defendant.


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Federal Judge Dabney Frederick found capital riot defendant Brandon Straka guilty of making “questionable” comments about his case in public since his sentencing.

John Minchillo/AP

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John Minchillo/AP

Federal Judge Dabney Frederick found capital riot defendant Brandon Straka guilty of making “questionable” comments about his case in public since his sentencing.

John Minchillo/AP

A federal judge has reprimanded a pro-Trump social media personality and Jan. 6 Capitol riots defendant for making “questionable” comments to the media about his plea deal and cooperation with law enforcement. Those comments, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Frederick said, were “inconsistent” with what he had previously said in court.

“He’s losing more and more credibility at the moment,” Frederick said in a teleconference hearing.

Judge Frederick said the defendant, Brandon Straka, was opening himself up to trial for lying to federal investigators.

“He has to appreciate that he is potentially incriminating himself [18 U.S. Code Section] 1001 case,” Frederick said, referring to a criminal statute against making “materially false” statements to the federal government.

Straka, founder of the conservative #WalkAway campaign, did not attend Wednesday’s hearing and was represented by his attorney. By this point, his case has largely been solved.

Back in September 2021, he agreed Convict A misdemeanor charge of engaging in disorderly and disorderly conduct in the Capitol building or grounds. At sentencing, he avoided jail time and instead received 90 days of house arrest and three years of probation.

Wednesday’s hearing apparently focused on an apparent error by the court, in which a clerk accidentally unsealed sensitive records detailing Straka’s cooperation with federal investigators. A coalition of media organizations, including NPR, had asked the court to quash the documents in the case. The court inadvertently provided more than the judge intended.

The records Straka described how he provided “significant information” about pro-Trump “Stop the Still” organizers, including Ali Alexander, Amy and Kylie Kramer and Cindy Chafian. Prosecutors said Straka provided investigators with a Jan. 6 voicemail he received from another defendant and that evidence was “valuable in the government’s case.” In another instance, records state that Straka helped identify another potential suspect who was “not previously identified by the FBI.”

Brandon Straka, seen here in 2018, is a prominent conservative social media influencer. He pleaded guilty to his actions during the 6 January 2021 Capitol riots.

Willy Sanjuan/Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

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Willy Sanjuan/Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Brandon Straka, seen here in 2018, is a prominent conservative social media influencer. He pleaded guilty to his actions during the 6 January 2021 Capitol riots.

Willy Sanjuan/Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Straka publicly reacted to the record’s release — which was first reported by a Washington, DC-based TV station. WUSA9 – By downplaying how much he cooperated with the government.

“For me, choosing to sit down and answer questions was a no-brainer — no one I know has committed any crimes, and I have no evidence of criminal misconduct by anyone,” Straka wrote in an open letter. posted Online. “There’s nothing wrong with talking to the DOJ and telling them your friends are innocent.”

He claimed, “Nobody whose questions I answered was arrested. As far as I know, nobody was visited.”

Judge Frederick apologized for accidentally releasing the sealed records, which she attributed to “human error.” She acknowledged that the release is particularly concerning, as records of government cooperation could put law enforcement sources at risk.

But Frederick, who was nominated to the federal bench by former President Trump, sounded audibly frustrated when she turned to recent public comments about Straka’s cooperation and his plea deal.

“He’s making claims inconsistent with what he told federal agents, he needs to understand that’s definitely not in his best interest,” Frederick told Straka’s attorney, Bilal Esayli.

At sentencing, Frederick credited Straka for his cooperation with law enforcement.

“While I view Mr. Straka’s criminal conduct as very serious,” Frederick said back in January, “this is somewhat mitigated by his initial plea and his willingness to assist the government by providing full and truthful information.”

Among both judges and prosecutors, Frederick is not alone in her frustration with some of the post-Peeley commentary in capital riot cases. A judge said he felt irritated and downplayed her actions after the defendant went on Fox News shortly after her Jan. 6 sentencing. This summer, prosecutors indicated The court went on a podcast after another riot defendant “made several statements inconsistent with what the government attributed and upon which the court relied at sentencing”.

Frederick also chided Straka for his recent public comments, where his story about what he did on Jan. 6 appears to differ from what he previously told the court under oath.

Straka walked with the crowd to the steps of the Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riots, filming on his smartphone. According to A Statement of offence As Straka signed and agreed to as part of his plea, he shouted “go, go, go” as members of the crowd tried to enter the building and chanted “take this, take that” after rioters grabbed a police officer’s shield. . Straka never entered the capitol building and left shortly after.

That evening, officials were trying to clear the capitol building, Straka Tweeted “Patriots in the Capitol – Hold. The. Line!!!!” When he later tweeted the comment, he said he did not understand the full extent of the violence.

Here at his Sentencing hearingStraka said he was “deeply sorry and ashamed to have attended an event that sent members of Congress running in fear to evacuate the building.”

He also expressed regret over the incident involving Dhal.

“I want to apologize to all members of the Capital Police whose safety was put at risk by the lawless mob, especially the police officer whose shield is seen in my video being grabbed by members of the mob,” Straka told the court.

Since then, however, Straka has been active on social media and making the rounds in conservative media. And, in Judge Frederick’s view, he made “questionable comments about the veracity of his plea.”

It was unclear what specific comments Frederick was referring to, but in several interviews, Straka has expressed doubt about the “criminal statement” he signed — particularly the section where he admitted to being a rioter on video saying “take this, take that.” Grabbed the police officer’s shield.

Straka told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “I vehemently denied to my attorney that it was my voice. I was shocked when I was charged. He said he was under intense pressure to sign a plea deal with that charge to resolve the case. Admitted to doing things,” he said.

Straka said people should watch the video of the incident with headphones on, “because when I speak on the video, it always comes from the left channel. And the other voices that were credited to me — well, you decide. That’s what it sounds like.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Frederick said Straka’s public comments “make me question every statement he made to me at sentencing — every single one of them.”

“I wonder: Should I expect a motion to withdraw his plea?” Frederick asked Straka’s lawyer. “Because I want you to know that I will gladly hold an evidentiary hearing to address his claims. Should I expect something like that?”

“No, your honor,” replied Esaily.

Esaily explained that Straka “is a public figure. He faces a lot of reports—many of which he sees as false reports or misleading reports, and it’s hard for him not to respond or get emotional.”

Frederick was not convinced by that argument.

“I suggest you ask him to exercise some discretion that he didn’t show before January 6th, during January 6th and obviously after January 6th,” Frederick said. “And also inform him that I am asking probation for periodic status reports on his performance on supervision.”

She added, “I expect what I hear from these reports to be different from what I’ve noticed in recent days.”

Essayli said he would pass the message on to his clients. Esayli did not respond to NPR’s request for comment.

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