Once again . . . this no literary masterpiece, just the stream of Tweets as the trial progressed today. (Please forgive the many typos.)
Day 10 of Oath Keepers Trial
Mehta takes the bench at 9:03 am . . . he asked everyone to come in early this morning so they could talk about the fact one of the jurors has been diagnosed with COVID. The juror is asymptomatic, but the rest of them could have been exposed during lunch yesterday. Jurors are being tested everyday. Mehta will recommend to the jurors that they continue with the trial, and continue wearing masks at all times. Despite the fact “Juror 13” has been dismissed - due to missing trial days during 5-day quarantine - there are still 15 jurors left. They are going to be doing ‘rapid tests’ on all jurors this morning, before proceeding. Mehta has now left the courtroom to brief the jurors. Court will likely be in recess past the usual start time of 9:30am.
Judge Mehta returns to courtroom at 10:28. Jury seated. Cross exam of Special Agent Hilgeman by Woodward resumes. He is readdressing the podcast which was only slightly excerpted yesterday. <ugh . . . inaudible for us hear in media room>
Woodward is done, and Atty Crisp takes over cross. Discussion of email to which his client, Watkins was involved. Then, gets Agent to admit she had no evidence the Watkins brought any weapons into DC.
Crisp takes Agent back through several of the chat/text messages she’d previously presented. Focusing on a particular text that had seemingly been edited by government, and didn’t show full text. Crisp has her read both . . . Crisp is done, and government begins redirect. (They have a lot of sh-t to attempt to clean up.)
On redirect, US Atty trying to show that ‘mistakes’ happen when they are harvesting Signal chats. Now trying to direct FBI to conjecture how LEGALLY owned weapons could be used ILLEGALLY. (I had to bury my head and hold my mouth shut.) WHY ISN’T DEFENSE OBJECTING?!?!?!?
I’m back in the courtroom after my interview on TNN Live . . . just in time for Mehta to announce the morning break.
Catching up on what I missed . . .
Us Atty makes point that OKs not legally licensed to perform per security details in DC.
While Rhodes did not take weapons to QRF at Comfort Inn, he did store some of his weapons at his own hotel in Vienna, VA.
Prosecution asked Agent if weapons have to be USED in order to be relevant to a case. Agent responds, “Absolutely not.” They are relevant to state of mind (thought crime) and conspiracy.
Gov. showed messages to Rhodes applauding his open letter to Trump, (which called upon the president to evoke the Insurrection Act,)
Showed message from Rhodes, an “Urgent Alert” telling them to be sure they bring nothing illegal into DC. That Proud Boys leader Tarrio had already been arrested, and that ‘they’ were likely setting trap.
Played recorded podcast audio where Ed Vallejo had said: “…and if they’re told to f—k you, that’s going to be the declaration of a guerrilla war.”
Recess over . . . re direct continues . . .
US Atty: “What was purpose of QRF?”
Agent: “To support the overall plan to prevent President Biden from taking over.”
No further questions . . . <sidebar> . . . Agent Hilgeman dismissed
Next witness called by prosecution . . . <long delay waiting for witness> . . . <really long delay> . . .
Mehta asks: “Do you know where your witness is?” <sidebar> . . . <still we wait>
Witness arrives . . . Captain Ronald Ortega of US Capitol Police (15 years service) - Typical questions about his duties, position, job description. Asked to explain all the various divisions and specialities in USCP.
Now being asked to explain USCP “less than lethal” division - which is specially trained to deal with rioters and unruly crowds.
Overhead of Capitol building being shown, and describing directions, dome, inaugural stage, etc. (the boring stuff they need to get out of the way.)
Interior layout of 1st floor of Capitol shown. Now second floor. More descriptions of each section of Capitol.
USAtty: “On a normal day, what kind of security would a visitor have to go through?”
Captain: “Screening, x-rays, magnetometer . . . “
Captain: “The Capitol is actually never open to the public - you have to have a reason to be there - but on J6 building was closed because of COVID and special session of Congress that day.”
Now showing overhead photo of entire Capitol complex and where the ‘bike rack’ barricades were set up on J6. Discussing the various levels of security ‘perimeters’ set up that day.
Shows photo of first bike racks picked up and pushed against officers, with “Area Closed” sign. Those signs were around entire perimeter.
Captain arrived for duty at 5:30am, and witnessed already gathering crowds. He was assigned to the Senate division. He went to Capitol at 1pm because of report of breach of perimeter. He eventually moved to the West side of building where initial rioting was taking place. he describes what is one of the largest crowds he’d ever seen there. He observed “his officers” being attacked by crowd.
Describes rioters who had begun coming up through the scaffolding, where he was hit in face with some sort of ‘orange liquid,’ and began doing battle with rioters.
“We were severely outnumbered . . . we were eventually breached on upper west terrace, and had to relocate to the east front.”
Asked about locations of CCTV cameras in and around the Capitol. (no audio on those cameras) Asked about USCP radio comms, and various channels they have on their system.
<sidebar> . . .
Lunch break called by Mehta . . . will resume at 1:30pm.
After jury and witness dismissed for lunch, Mehta asks about video length about to be presented into evidence by prosecution. (He’s certainly not been favorable to long videos from defense being presented.) They are watching video — which we can’t see, because it has not been yet approved as evidence — but Mehta is asking questions about times that the various defendants arrived into the various Capitol locations.
Gov. is arguing that the defense will say “barriers were down” when they arrived. They want to prove otherwise. (they can’t. I’ve seen the vids. defense will shred them on this argument.) Mehta really doesn’t like LONG videos. Ironically . . . he’s spending more time forcing the gov to argue why they are needed, than the likely overall length of the video. they are now reviewing the video again, but are interrupted by both Fischer and Crisp by objection arguments. <watching video again> interrupted by gov atty.
PERSONAL NOTE: The defense should allow ALL video to be shown. None of these defendants participated in any breach of barricades, police officers, doors, windows, etc. . . . and certainly never saw a single “Area closed” sign. They had already been removed and hidden by agents provocateur. (Lots of video of that activity.)
Mehta continues to watch video and ask Gov about relevance of certain sections. Gov continues to point out particular importance to their case of various sections of video.
There’s an argument between Gov, defense, and Mehta about the notification timing of video evidence. Crisp gets indignant with Mehta. Geyer now walks to podium and addresses Mehta with another counter video which he wished to submit into evidence that shows his client Harrelson was nowhere near barricades and breaches happened long before OKs arrived. Mehta begins resisting his evidence . . . Geyer pushes back, and asks to continue. Mehta bristles . . but allows Geyer to continue. Mehta asks what his objection is to the gov’s case. “I’m not objecting . . . I just want to be able to use this video to counter gov’s presentation.”
Geyer steps away from podium, and Gov continues showing their video to Mehta.
Mehta openly states that the defendants in this case are not involved in ANY of those breaches or kicking doors down. He is now saying the GOV is not going to be able to prove OKs breached those doors . . . BY THE VIDEO EVIDENCE . . . and telling them to cut the video down. GOV keeps trying to push . . . but Mehta says all that peripheral video is prejudicial and irrelevant to establishing OKs led or were involved in breach. He’s actually chastising prosecution for trying to present inflammatory and prejudicial evidence irrelevant to what and where.
NESTLER is arguing with Mehta, saying he believed the OKs were going to come around to the west tunnel battle and engage. Also saying the defense had this montage for weeks, and how frustrating it is that they have to cut the video up at last minute.
Mehta: “I have no reason to believe OKs had any idea what was happening on lower west terrace.”
Nestler argues that Caldwell was on west side communicating with OKs on eastside. Mehta tells him if he can show relevant communications, he might reconsider, but basically instructed them to spend lunch cutting video up.
Mehta just revealed an incredible display of knowledge of the evidence yet to be presented, and the actual circumstances on the ground at all times, all sides of the Capitol. on J6. (I’m duly impressed.) While he is NOT happy with the defenses last-minute objection to the Gov’s video evidence, he actually issued the prosecution their first well-deserved bitch-slapping, for attempting to prejudice the jury against the defendants with scenes of violence and perimeter breaches for which they DID NOT PARTAKE, and likely had NO KNOWLEDGE of.
Mehta sends everyone to lunch.
NOTE: In the media room it is often difficult for us to understand what kicks off certain sidebars. If attorneys are not speaking directly into microphones, we cannot hear objections. Then, we are given a loud “whitenoise” in media room, preventing us from hearing the sidebar discussions. We also miss “overruled” or “sustained”, because Judge makes his ruling before white noise is turned off. It then takes me awhile to catch up to the context of the discussions. During the open evidence debates, unless attorneys are speaking in mics, Have the same problem catching up to context of discussion. In my previous thread, I was under the impression Mehta was initially objecting to length of video to be presented by government. (As is his penchant.) But, he was dealing with LATE defense objections about prejudicial video to come. he was not happy with the defense, in that they’d had access to this evidence for several weeks, and could have dealt with this much earlier. Then, Mehta turned his ire toward the prosecution as he viewed their video evidence, and the overwhelming amount of content that was prejudicial and had nothing to do with either the OKs presence in those areas, or their known activities.
Back In session at 1:33pm . . . <no housekeeping> . . . jury seated, and Captain Ortega back on stand . . .
GovAtty: “Have you ever seen a breach at other Capitol protests?”
Gov. makes introduction of videos and audio files, to be entered into evidence by stipulation . . .
Video begins with questions and commentary. Now showing protest activity at Peace Circle from Capitol CCTV footage. Currently looking at west front of Capitol. Crowd gathering at exterior ’snow fence’ barrier.
GovAtty: “Are rioters allowed at this plaza?”
Captain: “They are not.”
<they said ‘west’ but we are clearly looking at EAST side video>
Now showing video of police retreating up east side stairs toward Columbus Doors. Switching back to West side scaffolding footage.
Now showing the initial breach of building of west Senate Wing doors and windows at 2:12pm from interior CCTV.
Showing more video of west plaza battle line. Images shown of Senate carriage door breach. Crypt room images shown with protestors entering. Showing interior CCTV of protestors who entered from west side approaching east side Columbus doors, then those doors being opened, and east side protestors entering. More exterior west side video from 2:33pm.
NOTE: So far, none of this video depicts OK presence or activity.
Back to interior CCTV of Columbus door. At 2:40pm shows first entry of OKs - (after hundreds of people already in Capitol.)
Now presenting USCP radio audio of “Shots Fired” at 2:44pm.
Captain testifies this was a terrifying moment for him, because he didn’t know whether his officers had been shot, or if a member of Congress was fired upon.
More video of interior CCTV of Columbus doors area, at 3:28pm. Then more video outside of east side at 4:20, showing rioters still on site enlarge numbers.
No further questions . . . Bright - for Rhodes - begins cross . . . Very short cross. Inconsequential.
Fischer - for Caldwell - takes over cross . . . Asking Captain to verify perimeter access on normal days, vs. J6.
Fischer: “You’d agree the Capitol is colloquially called The People’s House?”
Captain: “I’ve heard that saying before.”
Fischer asking Captain about if he knew that after initial breach, the evidence of the existences of bike racks, police, and signs had been removed. Captain says he “doesn’t know.”
Fischer asks Captain if he’s aware that tear gas had been released inside the Capitol. Captain says he’s doesn’t know. (NOTE: I can tell you, as first hand witness, there WAS.)
Fischer is done . . . Woodward - for Meggs - takes over cross . . .
Woodward begins showing Captain video and getting clarification of areas inside or outside restricted perimeter where crowds are walking. Most appear to have no restriction markings or fencing. Now showing areas with fencing and bike racks. (more videos being shown to Captain and admitted into evidence that we have not yet seen.) Videos are being shown of OKs circled, and either having not entered restricted areas, or only entering areas long after barriers were removed and hidden.
No further questions . . . Geyer - for Harrelson - takes over cross. Begins showing videos to be presented into evidence. Videos submitted from Capitol CCTV cameras.
Geyer begins asking Captain to verify times when “provocateurs” moved around to east, from west, and began pressing barriers on that side. Geyer shows Captain videos of Harrelson escorting VIP security detail toward Capitol.
Geyer asks Captain to verify that protestors with bullhorns were gathered early in the morning at Capitol, long before Trump began his speech. Affirmed.
Geyer is having Captain verify where largest concentration of crowds are gathering on east side, as “battle is raging” on west side. Captain acknowledges.
Geyer: “Can you identify the personal security detail in upper panel?”
Geyer: “Can you identify Ken Harrelson in that security detail?”
Captain: “I don’t know who that person is.”
Geyer: “Can you identify where the provocateurs are pressing officers against barricades, and which aren’t?”
Geyer: “Can you see the PSD group is not with the larger crowd pressing barricades, and identify where they are in relation to the video sync?”
<Mehta calls sidebar>
Mehta: “You may continue.”
Captain: “I can’t confirm from camera position who is in that area.”
Geyer now presents video of bike rack areas during breach, and racks being hidden. Captain unable to say who the identity is of persons moving racks.
(Geyer’s video presentation is of four different camera angles all time-synched, in four quadrants of screen. Sometimes makes it difficult to interpret because of smaller screen size on witness stand.)
Geyer: “Can you identify Ken Harrelson in that video?”
<objection . . . overruled>
Captain: “I do not know who that is.”
Geyer: “Are you an expert on crowd size?”
Captain: “No, I am not, but I can tell you it was the largest protest crowd I’ve ever seen at the Capitol, and on the west side the number was as large as at any inauguration I have seen.”
Geyer is done . . . redirect begins. . . . short and inconsequential.
Captain Ortega is dismissed, and Mehta calls for afternoon break - jury dismissed.
Linder - for Rhodes - begins discussion about the next witness, (Jason Dolan), who is an Oath Keeper who has already entered a plea agreement and pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct. Linder and Nestler remain at podium together trading arguments about what parts of Dolan’s testimony, statements, etc. should be allowed. Fischer stands and objects to presentation of Dolan’s agreement to take a polygraph . . . when it appears he has not actually taken one. Nestler argues that his ‘agreement’ alone should be admissible.
Back from Break . . . AUSA Nestler: “United States calls Jason Dolan.”
Florida resident. Served close to 20 years in Marines. Retired as Staff Sgt. Five times deployed overseas. Infantry Platoon Sgt. Answers question about current employment, injuries, hip replacement, etc.
Says he quit job after hip replacement and spent his time killing pain drinking beer and vodka. Mostly spent time watching videos on his phone about the 2020 election. “At the time,” he felt the election had been stolen. He supported Trump in election. (“At the time.”) He was pissed at the time of loss, was angry, and hadn’t completed the process of thinking about what he could do about his frustrations about election.
He was looking for “some way to vent.” A friend told hm about the OKs. He liked they were made up of mostly former military and LEOs. Felt most OKs were similarly disappointed in election results. Eventually Kelly Meggs became the leader of FL chapter of OKs - who he eventually met. (Identifies Meggs as defendant in courtroom.)
He eventually came to recognize Ken Harrelson as leader of the “green team” of FL OKs, eventually met him, and identifies Harrelson in courtroom.
He eventually downloaded Signal and selected a ‘call-sign’ for his Signal identity. Much questioning and discussion about various OK chats he participated in, how often, how many people . . . and whether or not Rhodes had ever participated in FL OK chats. Dolan confirms he had.
Now begins reading of more pre-J6 announcement Signal chats in which Dolan participated. Asked to clarify his thinking about what he was willing to do if the courts did not remedy the election. These chats are mostly “god and country and constitution” patriotic rah-rah chats.
Dolan then reads one of own messages in which he said, “If i’m lucky I get a prison sentence, tagged with treason, or a bullet from the very people I would protect.” Explains that was his mindset at the time. All legal avenues he saw about the election at the time were being stopped or blocked. Thinking he needed to mentally prepare himself to fight against an illegitimate government. “Fight” - not rhetorical. Literal.
More questions and message slides allow Nestler to further explore Dolan’s mindset about possibility of fighting against an illegitimate government.
AUSA: “What do you mean about ‘People who are wiling to stand against tyranny.’”
Dolan: More explanation of his considerations about what it would take to defend the constitution, etc., including how many it would take if an armed conflict happened.
Dolan: Even if you have 100, 1,000 . . . or 200,000 people, an ‘unconsolidated’ group stands no chance against any centralized government.
AUSA: “What were you willing to do to stand up against tyranny?”
Dolan: Explains he was still trying to figure out what was in his own mind, based upon how the controversy was transpiring.
Nestler shows message from Rhodes calling upon Trump “to do his duty . . . if he doesn’t, we will do ours.” Then asks Dolan to explain what he thought of that, what that meant to him. Dolan says he was prepared to take up arms to fight the government.
AUSA: “Did you take arms to DC?”
Gov. presents and shows Dolan’s AR-15 to jury. <objection>
<NOTE: there have been objections and sidebars throughout this testimony. because of ‘whitenoise’ in media room , it’s often tough to tell who, what and why>
They bring Dolan’s rifle back up to show jury, once again. Then bring his handgun.
Both Nestler and Dolan kept saying these firearms were brought to “DC.” Dolan made specific point to correct that for the record. “DC area,” but never took weapons to DC proper, only to hotel in VA. Dolan then once again mistakenly referred to taking weapons to “DC.”
Dolan clarifies his understanding that if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act, it would be “pro-Trump forces” vs. “Pro-Biden forces.” He understood from Rhodes’ rhetoric that Trump invoking IA would legalize the calling up of militia groups to fight for Trump. He explains he’s never looked up the legality or how the IA actually works.
Nestler more often that not presses Dolan into rambling about the same concepts over and over again, and Dolan is not the most eloquent of witnesses. Insurrection act this . . . election certified that . . . QRF when . . . rambling, rambling. Nestler is basically one-track on getting Dolan to admit that the OKs were going to go to war against the federal government if the Insurrection Act had been invoked.
Nestler wants Dolan to theorize what would have happened if IA invoked. Dolan explains he thought it would be government against split government forces.
AUSA: “What were you prepared to do if Trump didn’t invoke IA?”
Dolan: “I’d do whatever the other OKs would do, but I was prepared to stop the certification of the election.”
-Nestler asks who Dolan picked up for the ride to DC?
-Dolan answers, Harrelson and Terry Cummings (previous government witness.) His first time to meet Harrelson.
Then, details of travel arrangements, where they stayed in NC on 4th, then went straight to hotel in VA. Nestler presses Dolan to talk about messages encouraging bringing firearms, and what he saw other OKs bringing into hotel from parking deck. Then shows luggage cart loaded with rifle cases - which we’ve previously seen.
Now discussion about how firearms would be delivered to QRF if called for. Then, question about where Dolan and others went on Friday evening after dropping luggage and guns off at VA hotel. Nestler shows a photo from Dolan’s own phone which he took of the Capitol with barricades shown in the frame. Now asking about the morning of the 6th . . . what they were bringing . . . including tactical gear. Harrelson then got a call from Meggs telling them they didn’t have to bring their heavy gear to White House.
After attending the rally, Dolan and Harrelson, and couple other OKs started exporting “Stop the Steal” VIPs to Capitol. Nestler has him acknowledge he’d received a text during the walk about the Capitol being breached, and that VP Pence had not blocked the certification. “Wasn’t just me, I was pissed. You could feel the crowd change. They were pissed.”
“For me, it seemed like with 100,000 people there, if anything was going to happen to stop election, that was the moment.”
Gov plays video of Dolan and Harrelson walking toward stairs on east side of Capitol. Then shows second video isolating on Dolan waiting on police line to collapse before going to top of stairs. He said he looked down, and eventually saw Harrelson come up the stairs. Eventually Meggs and other OKs came up steps as crowd was singing National Anthem. Then, crowd started chanting “Oath Keepers, Oath Keepers.” Made him feel good to be recognized.
Both Dolan and Harrison were recording videos on their phones. Gov. now begins to play video from Harrelson’s phone. (About 3 minutes.) Shows that the Columbus doors were open long before OKs arrived, that as many as 100 people preceded OKs through the doors, where they met up with hundreds who’d came in from West side. The move into Rotunda with crowd chanting what sounds like “Treason.” Various other OKs show up in video.
Nestler returns video to portion where “Treason” was being chanting. Gov. shows a freeze frame photo from another angle at that moment, which appears to show both Dolan and Harrelson were chanting “Treason.”
Dolan explains that he joined into the chant of “Treason” because he believed Congress members might be able to hear his anger. “I wanted them to be afraid of me,” and be “scared into doing the right thing.”
Now we turn to the ‘mention’ of an encounter with a particular police officer who was guarding the stairs. (Interestingly, they did NOT get into any ‘discussion’ of that encounter.) A photo was presented, from his phone, that he’d deleted from his phone - showing Meggs and Harrelson. The discussion was first about how he felt about the police. “Were they targets” “No . . . they were obstacles.” Then, conversation changed to all the things he deleted from his phone, how, and why . . . because of fear of arrest after he saw so many others being arrested for being there that day. He even did a ‘factory reset’ on his phone.
After they left the Capitol Building, they met up with several other OKs, including Rhodes. (first time to meet him.) Identifies Rhodes in the courtroom. Shows more video of OKs outside Capitol, including other defendants in this courtroom.
AUSA: “How did you feel NOW about your actions?”
Dolan: “I feel like I was naive, and thankful Trump had not invoked the insurrection act. Because there would have been a lot of violence . . . I feel pretty stupid about the whole thing.”
Nestler then presents Dolan’s plea agreement to the court, to which he pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. He anticipates to receive 5-7 years in prison - from Judge Mehta - who heard and accepted his plea deal.
-Court called into recess at 5:04pm . . .