Ex-officer found guilty of storming the Capitol to disrupt Congress | Policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal jury has convicted a former Virginia police officer for storm the United States Capitol with another off-duty officer to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Jurors sentenced the former Rocky Mount police officer on Monday Thomas Robertson of the six counts he faced following the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, including charges of interfering with police at the Capitol and entering a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a big wooden stick.

His sentencing hearing was not immediately scheduled.

Robertson’s jury trial was the second among hundreds of Capitol riot cases. The first ended last month with jurors convicting a Texas man, Guy Refitof the five counts in his indictment.

Robertson did not testify at his trial, which began last Tuesday. The jurors deliberated for several hours over two days before reaching their unanimous verdict.

A juror, who spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity, said as she left the courthouse: ‘I think the government presented a really compelling case and the evidence was quite overwhelming.

Defense attorney Mark Rollins said Robertson would appeal the jury’s verdict. “While Mr. Robertson disagrees with the jury’s decision, he respects the rule of law,” Rollins said in a statement.

A key witness for prosecutors in his case was Jacob Fracker, who also served in the Rocky Mount Police Force and considered Robertson a mentor and father figure. Fracker was due to stand trial alongside Robertson before pleading guilty last month to a conspiracy charge and agreeing to cooperate with authorities. Fracker testified Thursday that he had hoped the mob that attacked the Capitol might overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Robertson was charged with six counts: obstructing Congress, interfering with officers during a civil disturbance, entering a restricted area while carrying a dangerous weapon, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted area while carrying a dangerous weapon, disorderly or disruptive conduct inside the Capitol construction and obstruction. The latest charge stems from his alleged post-riot destruction of cellphones belonging to him and Fracker.

During closing arguments in the trial on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower said Robertson traveled to Washington and joined a “mob of violent vigilantes” because he believed the election was stolen from the president. of the time, Donald Trump. He used the wooden baton to interfere with outnumbered police before joining the crowd pouring into the Capitol, she said.

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

Rollins admitted that Robertson broke the law when he entered the Capitol during the riot. He encouraged jurors to convict Robertson of misdemeanor, but urged them to acquit Robertson of felony charges that he used the baton as a dangerous weapon and intended to prevent Congress from certifying the vote. of the electoral college.

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

Fracker testified that he initially believed he was merely a trespasser when he entered the Capitol building. However, he eventually pleaded guilty to conspiring with Robertson to obstruct Congress.

Cross-examined by Rollins, Fracker said he had no “verbal agreement” with anyone to obstruct the joint session of Congress. Fracker said he believed everyone in the crowd “had pretty much the same goal” and didn’t need it to be “said out loud”.

Robertson and Fracker drove with a neighbor to Washington on the morning of January 6. Robertson brought them three gas masks, prosecutors say.

After listening to speeches near the Washington Monument, Fracker, Robertson and the neighbor walked to the Capitol, donned the gas masks and joined the growing crowd, prosecutors said. Robertson stopped to help his neighbor, who was struggling to breathe. Fracker cut himself off and entered the building before Robertson, but they reunited inside the Capitol.

Defense attorney Camille Wagner told jurors that Robertson only entered the Capitol because he wanted to pick up Fracker, who entered the Capitol minutes before Robertson. Wagner said the US Army veteran used the stick to help him walk because he was limping after being shot in the right thigh while working as a private contractor for the US Department of Defense in Afghanistan in 2011.

Jurors saw some of Robertson’s vitriolic social media posts before and after the Capitol riot. In a Facebook post on November 7, 2020, Robertson said “being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line.”

“I spent most of my adult life fighting a counterinsurgency. (I am) about to be a part of it, and a very effective one,” he wrote.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi told jurors that Robertson was charged with his actions, not his political beliefs. Wagner also said Robertson should be judged by his actions, not his words.

The city fired Robertson and Fracker after the riot. Rocky Mount is about 25 miles south of Roanoke and has a population of about 5,000.

Robertson has been imprisoned since Cooper ruled in July that he had violated the terms of his bail for possession of firearms.

More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. More than 250 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors.

Robertson’s trial is one of four to date for the Capitol riot defendants. Two others had their cases decided by trials before the same judge.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced New Mexico elected official Couy Griffin last month of illegally entering restricted Capitol grounds but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct. On Wednesday, McFadden acquitted another New Mexico man, Matthew Martin, of the four counts he faced.

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