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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Ex Police Officer Convicted in Jan 6 Capitol Raid

A federal jury found a former Virginia police officer guilty of invading the United States Capitol with another off-duty officer in order to prevent Congress from recognizing President Joe Biden’s election win in 2020.

Thomas Robertson, a former Rocky Mount police officer, was found guilty on Monday on all six counts he faced in connection with the incident on Jan. 6, 2021, including charges of interfering with police officers at the Capitol and entering a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a thick wooden stick.

His sentence hearing was not arranged right away.

The jury trial of Robertson was the second of hundreds of Capitol riot trials. The first ended last month with a Texas man, Guy Reffitt, being found guilty of all five charges in his indictment by jurors.

Robertson did not take the stand during his trial, which began on Tuesday. The jury deliberated for several hours over the course of two days before reaching a unanimous decision.

“I believe the government presented a pretty strong case and the evidence was quite overwhelming,” one juror, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said as she walked out of the courthouse.

Robertson’s defense counsel, Mark Rollins, has stated that he will appeal the jury’s decision. In a statement, Rollins said, “While Mr. Robertson disagrees with the jury’s verdict, he respects the system of law.”

Jacob Fracker, who also worked on the Rocky Mount police department and saw Robertson as a mentor and father figure, was a significant witness for prosecutors in his case. Before pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge and agreeing to cooperate with investigators, Fracker was set to stand trial alongside Robertson. Fracker said on Thursday that he believed the crowd that invaded the Capitol would be able to reverse the presidential election results in 2020.

Six counts were filed against Robertson: obstruction of 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 building, and obstruction. The last accusation derives from his alleged post-riot destruction of his and Fracker’s smartphones.

Robertson flew to Washington and joined a “violent vigilante mob” because he felt the election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump, Assistant US Attorney Risa Berkower said during the trial’s concluding statements on Friday. She claimed he used the wooden stick to obstruct outnumbered cops before joining the crowds flooding into the Capitol.

“All of this was done because the defendant sought to overturn the election,” Berkower added.

Robertson breached the law when he entered the Capitol during the riot, according to Rollins. He asked jurors to find Robertson guilty of misdemeanor counts but acquit him of felony allegations that he used the stick as a deadly weapon and meant to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College result.

“I had no intention of going down there and saying, ‘I’m going to stop Congress from voting,'” Rollins said.

When Fracker first entered the Capitol building, he thought he was just trespassing, he testified. He eventually pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct Congress alongside Robertson.

Fracker said under cross-examination by Rollins that he had no “verbal arrangement” with anybody to impede the joint session of Congress. Fracker said that everyone in the mob “very much had the same intention” and that it didn’t need to be “spoken out loud.”

On the morning of Jan. 6, Robertson and Fracker went to Washington with a friend. According to prosecutors, Robertson brought three gas masks for them to use.

Fracker, Robertson, and the neighbor went toward the Capitol after hearing speeches near the Washington Monument, donned gas masks, and joined the increasing throng, according to prosecutors. Robertson came to a halt to assist a neighbor who was having difficulty breathing. Fracker separated from Robertson and entered the building first, but the two later reconnected within the Capitol.

Robertson merely walked into the Capitol, defense counsel Camille Wagner told jurors, to fetch Fracker, who had entered the Capitol a few minutes before Robertson. Wagner said the US Army veteran was using the stick to assist him walk since he had a limp as a result of being shot in the right thigh while working for the US Defense Department as a private contractor in Afghanistan in 2011.

Before and after the Capitol disturbance, jurors saw some of Robertson’s venomous social media messages. “Being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line,” Robertson stated in a Facebook post on Nov. 7, 2020.

“I’ve spent the most of my adult life combating insurgents. “I’m going to join one, and it’ll be a very effective one,” he added.

Robertson was prosecuted for his acts, not his political convictions, according to Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi. Robertson, according to Wagner, should be assessed by his actions rather than his words.

Following the brawl, the municipality dismissed Robertson and Fracker. Rocky Mount is located about 25 miles south of Roanoke and has a population of around 5,000 people.

Robertson has been in prison after Cooper determined in July that he had broken his pretrial release conditions by owning guns.

Over 770 persons have been charged with federal offenses in connection with the disturbance. Over 250 of them have entered pleas, the majority of them to misdemeanors.

Robertson’s trial is one of four that have taken place so far for defendants in the Capitol riots. Two further cases were determined through bench trials in front of the same judge.

Couy Griffin, a New Mexico elected politician, was convicted last month of illegally entering restricted Capitol grounds but cleared of disorderly conduct by U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden. McFadden acquitted Matthew Martin, a New Mexico man, of all four charges he faced on Wednesday.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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