Prosecutors back down on worst claims about Jan. 6 riot

The National Guard and Capitol Police respond to riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Video screenshot)

Democrats in Congress painted the riot at the U.S. Capitol in January as a literal attempt to take over the government. They accused President Trump of inciting “insurrection” in an impeachment article that was rejected by the Senate.

But federal prosecutors who initially had the same take now are backtracking, Reuters reported.

The Department of Justice had claimed, for example, that rioters planned to kill elected officials and there was a directive from a Virginia man to gas lawmakers.

But the DOJ hasn’t been able to support the claims and since has acknowledged that some of its evidence is less damning than it initially indicated.

The tendency to overcharge and overreach could damage the prosecutions that  develop, warned a legal expert.

Gerald B. Lefcourt, who has represented high-profile defendants in political demonstrations, including Chicago Seven figure Abbie Hoffman, said, “They are trying to build the most horrendous cases they can because the public wants it – and this is politicizing criminal justice.”

Among the cases is one against Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy officer who is alleged to have had a role as a leader of the group Oath Keepers.

The FBI alleges there were Facebook messages to Caldwell while he was at the Capitol urging him to turn on the gas and tear up floorboards.

One message said, “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas.”

A prosecutor used that quote to try to convince a judge to detain two other men. But the government now acknowledges that Caldwell wasn’t even a member of Oath Keepers, and there’s no evidence he entered the Capitol.

Caldwell’s defense lawyer also noted the Facebook messages came from two men who were miles away and had no connection to Oath Keepers.

The comments were satirical, albeit “tasteless,” his lawyer said, and Caldwell never responded to them.

In Caldwell’s case, a judge released him to home detention pending trial after finding evidence favorable to Caldwell.

And when prosecutors claimed they had evidence Jacob Chansley, the infamous viking-hat man, intended to capture and assassinate elected officials, they reversed course within hours.

Another man accused of leading Proud Boys members by using encrypted communications was found to have had a cell telephone with a dead battery throughout that day.

The DOJ sustained yet another blow days ago when U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta warned of a possible gag order after a former DOJ prosecutor gave interviews suggesting that there was evidence to support the charge of sedition.

The Conservative Treehouse blog said it seems that the DOJ “never actually intended to win any of these cases, but rather wanted to advance a political narrative about extremists through their earlier statements.”

“The approach of building a political narrative through false accusations and over-charging in the DOJ is the essence of Lawfare. The government has endless taxpayer resources to fuel their political weaponization of the judiciary.”

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