Jury deliberates in Capitol riot trial of ex-police officer

WASHINGTON (AP) — A defense attorney admitted Friday that a former Virginia police officer broke the laws when he entered the U.S. Capitol during last year’s riots, prompting a federal jury to convict him of misdemeanor crimes. encouraged to stay.

But the lawyer urged jurors to acquit Thomas Robertson, a former Rocky Mount police officer on felony charges that he armed himself with a weapon and sent the Capitol with another off-duty officer to President Joe Biden’s 2020 election. Rucked in with another off-duty official to prevent him from attesting an election victory.

Juries began deliberating after hearing final arguments from Justice Department prosecutors and defense attorney Mark Rollins in Robertson’s jury trial, the second in hundreds of Capitol riots cases. Last month jurors convicted a Texas man, Guy Refitt, on all five counts in his indictment.

Rollins said Robertson is “absolutely guilty” of illegally entering the Capital’s restricted areas and engaging in disorderly conduct on January 6, 2021. But defense attorneys argued that the evidence did not support the more serious allegations that Robertson intended to block Congress. Votes from the Electoral College certifying that he was armed with a dangerous weapon, a large wooden stick.

“There was no plan to go down there and say, ‘I’m going to stop Congress from doing this vote,'” Rollins said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkover said Robertson went to Washington, D.C., and joined a “violent vigilante crowd” because she believed the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. He said he used a wooden stick to intervene with the police in large numbers before joining the crowd coming to the Capitol.

“The defendant did all this because he wanted to reverse the election,” Berkover said.

Robertson did not testify at his trial. A key witness for prosecutors in his case was Jacob Fraker, who also served in the Rocky Mount Police Force and viewed Robertson as a mentor and father figure.

Fraker was scheduled to go to trial with Robertson before pleading guilty to conspiracy charges last month and agreeing to cooperate with federal officials.

Fraker testified Thursday that he initially believed he was only trespassing when he entered the Capitol building. However, he ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiring with Robertson to obstruct a joint session of Congress.

Fraker said he had no “verbal agreement” with anyone to obstruct Congressional proceedings. He said he believed everyone in the crowd “had pretty much the same goal” and that it didn’t need to be “said out loud”.

“It was clear that everyone around him had the same goal,” Berkover said.

Rollins stated that Robertson was not involved in any violence or destruction perpetrated by the “knuckleheads” and “clowns” who attacked the Capitol.

He told jurors, “Don’t judge other people based on what they’re doing.”

Robertson and Fraker went to Washington with a neighbor on the morning of January 6. According to prosecutors, Robertson brought three gas masks for his use.

Prosecutors said after hearing a speech near the Washington Monument, Fraker, Robertson and neighbors walked to the Capitol, donned gas masks and joined a growing crowd. Robertson stopped to help his neighbor, who was having trouble breathing. Fraker breaks down and enters the building before Robertson, but they are reunited inside the Capitol.

Defense attorney Camille Wagner said Robertson only went to the Capitol because he wanted to retrieve Fraker. Wagner also denied that Robertson had used the stick as a weapon. She said the US military veteran was using it as a walking stick because he was still paralyzed from a bullet in his right thigh while working as a private contractor for the US Department of Defense in Afghanistan in 2011.

Robertson was charged with six counts: obstruction of Congress, interference with officers during a civil disorder, carrying a dangerous weapon while entering a restricted area, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted area, disorderly inside the Capitol building or Disruptive conduct and obstruction. The last allegation stems from the alleged riot’s post-riot destruction of cellphones belonging to him and Fraker.

After the riot the city fired Robertson and Fraker. Prosecutors said Robertson paid Fraker more than $30,000 after he was arrested, but Fraker said he believed Robertson wanted to cover up his lost wages and “buy” his testimony. were not trying.

Juries saw some of Robertson’s objectionable posts on social media before and after the Capitol riots. In a Facebook post on November 7, 2020, Robertson said, “Depriving fraud is my hard line.”

“I have spent most of my adult life fighting anti-terrorism. (I am) to be a part of one, and a very effective one,” he wrote.

Robertson has been jailed since Cooper ruled in July that he had violated the terms of his pretrial release with firearms.

More than 770 people have been indicted for riot-related federal crimes. More than 240 of them have confessed to their crime, most of them in rape cases.

Robertson’s lawsuit is one of four for Capital Riot defendants so far. Two others had their cases decided by bench trial before the same judge.

US District Judge Trevor McFadden last month convicted New Mexico’s elected official Coy Griffin of illegally entering the restricted Capitol grounds, but acquitted him of disorderly conduct. On Wednesday, McFadden acquitted another New Mexico man, Matthew Martin, of all four charges he faced.

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