A defendant who pleaded guilty in connection with the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol Complex has told a federal judge that one reason he should face a light punishment is because he’s a “registered Democrat” who is “not a Trump supporter.” The defendant made those claims despite federal prosecutors previously telling the same judge that the defendant is on video “seemingly” chanting “Fight for Trump!” and wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat during the tumultuous breach.
According to court documents on file with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Robert Maurice Reeder, 55, of Maryland, pleaded guilty to one of several counts contained in an original charging document. The count to which Reeder pleaded guilty is Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building. That count, according to a written plea agreement, “carries a maximum sentence of six (6) months of imprisonment” and “a fine of not more than $5,000.”
Both the government and the defendant filed sentencing memorandums to the judge overseeing the matter in an attempt to suggest a proper punishment. The government asked Senior Judge Thomas Francis Hogan, a Ronald Reagan appointee, to impose a sentence of “two months’ imprisonment and restitution in the amount of $500.”
The government’s reasoning is laid out in its sentencing memorandum. Naturally, prosecutors pointed to Reeder’s alleged pro-Trump chant:
Indeed, the Defendant was so proud of his participation in the riot that he recorded it for the world to see – to see him chant “Fight for Trump” as he scaled the steps of the Capitol and headed toward the mob entering the building; to see him breach the Capitol twice; to stand by and videotape an officer being assaulted; and to hear him brag that he “battle[d] the police.” For the Defendant, these unlawful acts were a source of pride and accomplishment. For the nation, it was a permanent source of shame and sorrow.
Prosecutors also pointed to a video the defendant recorded to explain his admitted exploits:
“I just left the Capitol. One of the last people out. I was in there for over a half hour. I got gassed several times inside, many times outside the Capitol. Got shot with peppers balls. Its fucking nuts. We had to battle the police inside. It was crazy. Absolutely insane.”
“While the Government recognizes that Reeder did not personally engage in violence or property destruction, his participation in the mob contributed to mayhem and destruction, his limited acceptance of responsibility, and his continued lack of remorse or contrition for the full scope of his conduct on January 6th, all weigh in favor of a custodial sentence,” prosecutors explained to the judge.
Reader’s charging documents allege that he also told police officers “You need to retreat!” during the Jan. 6 incursion.
The Government’s Sentencing Request
The government’s 14-page sentencing memorandum was outflanked in volume by Reeder’s whopping 54-page memorandum. In it, Reeder counters with a suggestion that he should serve a sentence of probation only — but he did agree to fork over the $500 in restitution. Among his arguments were the following:
Mr. Reeder is not politically active, is not and has never been a member of any right-wing or anti-government or extremist group and has, unfortunately, been publicly grouped with many others who views he abhors. Mr. Reeder is a registered Democrat, and was not a Trump supporter, although he did like the patriotic spirit that he believed that President Trump was trying to instill in Americans.
Mr. Reeder had never attended a political rally or protest prior to January 6th. He has since suffered much as a result of his conduct on January 6th including the loss of his employment, as well as the loss of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and many acquaintances, He has been alienated by disappointed family members, including his son. He has endured irreputable damage to his reputation; all because of a spur of the moment decision and regrettable mistake to attend a Trump rally and follow what he thought was peaceful group of individuals to the Capitol to make their political views known. He does not want to be remembered as or considered one of the unlawful or violent protestors that assaulted the Capitol that day.
Elsewhere, it reads:
Reeder objects to his being included in a crowd that is described as “a large crowd of individuals who gathered outside the US Capitol and ultimately forced entry inside the building. Those individuals’ actions included breaking windows and assaulting members of law enforcement as others in the crowd encouraged and assisted those acts to gain entry into the US Capitol.
Reeder’s conduct was individual and significantly and substantially different from many others in the “crowd.” He did not engage in “forced entry,” did not participate in “breaking windows and assaulting members of law enforcement” and was not one who “encouraged and assisted those acts to gain entry into the US Capitol.”
The defense memorandum says Reeder started his day on Jan. 6th sitting at home watching television in nearby Maryland. When he saw what was beginning to occur in Washington, D.C., he boarded a train into the city, joined Donald Trump’s event at the Ellipse about a half an hour late at 11:30 a.m., and then proceeded to view several D.C. monuments before eventually ending up at the Capitol. Reeder claimed not to have followed the throngs of Trump supporters who walked directly from the Ellipse to the Capitol Complex.
“The atmosphere in the crowd was initially festive, with mothers pushing babies in strollers and people waving flags and proclaiming their love for America,” Reeder’s memorandum states. The document goes on to describe Reeder as a defendant who “fully cooperated with law enforcement” and “was among the first to voluntarily provide his personal pictures and videos of what he observed and experienced.” Included in the lengthy memorandum is the defendant’s version of his own timeline of actions on Jan. 6.
Government Reply: Reeder’s Excuses Are “Absurd” and “Unbelievable”
Prosecutors replied two days later as follows (legal citations are omitted herein):
As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” The Defendant’s sentencing memorandum attempts to paint a picture of the Defendant as a lost tourist, in awe of the Capitol, defending it from destruction and documenting the events of the day. To believe the Defendant’s version of events one needs to suspend reality, ignore facts, and omit evidence.
First, the Defendant appears to justify his conduct, arguing that he simply did not know that he wasn’t allowed in the Capitol, and he blames the police for not “verbally or otherwise” attempting to keep him out of the building. The Defendant’s argument is the equivalent of blaming homeowners for not having a better security system or doing more to stop a mob of burglars. The Defendant omits the fact, that by his own recounting, he and his fellow rioters were tear-gassed by law enforcement in an attempt to prevent them from breaching the Capitol, as they were vastly outnumbered by rioters. The Defendant’s account also omits the fact that there were four officers at the door endeavoring to defend against hundreds of rioters outside and hundreds more who had already entered the building through broken windows and doors. Nor does the Defendant acknowledge that there was an extremely loud alarm going off as he approached and entered the building. Nevertheless, the Defendant continues to maintain that he simply had no idea he wasn’t allowed to enter the Capitol. It is unclear what additional sign the Defendant needed to indicate he was not welcome other than the barricades, tear gas, pepper balls, alarms, and law enforcement officers.
The government went on to make eight more points which are worth repeating here nearly in their entirety:
Second, the Defendant claims that he was only inside the Capitol because he was searching for water because of the tear gas. The Defendant omits the fact that the officer he asked for water specifically told him that there was none inside and directed him to get water outside.
Third, the Defendant claims that he was so struck by the “awe and the beauty of the Rotunda” that he “began taking pictures and videos.” The Defendant omits that he had been filming the entire riot — because he was proud to be a part of it. The Defendant’s own video footage shows rope lines knocked over on the floor of the rotunda, and individuals waiving Trump 2020 flags, and yelling, among other things, “whose house, our house.” The video also shows rioters in battle dress attire yelling for people to clear the hall as tear gas is seen in the background. The Defendant then turns the camera on himself and announces, with some excitement, “tear gas inside the Capitol.” Rioters surrounding him can then be heard chanting “stop the steal.”
Fourth, the Defendant claims that he left the Capitol after “he noticed too many people had begun to yell and not act with respect.” It is unclear why the Defendant was not similarly troubled by the conduct of the rioters he filmed before breaching the Capitol.
[ . . . ]
Fifth, the Defendant nearly glosses over the fact that after exiting the Capitol building and being directed by a police officer to a path away from the Capitol grounds, the Defendant decided to breach the Capitol for a second time.
Sixth, the Defendant omits that when he reentered the Capitol, he forced his way back into the Capitol Rotunda, which law enforcement officers were trying to clear.
Seventh, the Defendant failed to mention that, during his second breach of the Capitol, he was standing next to rioters as they assaulted a police officer and, rather than assist the officer, the Defendant made sure he continued to film.
Eighth, the Defendant claims that it wasn’t until he got home that he realized the “full extent of the riotous behavior that was occurring at the Capitol.” The Defendant literally filmed two hours of rioters breaching the Capitol, battling with police, and destroying government property. Indeed, near the end of his day of riotous conduct, the Defendant — twice — recorded himself bragging about his exploits and the extent of violence and destruction. He referenced being tear gassed outside the Capitol and at least four times inside the Capitol, bragged to have had to “battle with the police” and described the death of a rioter. The Defendant stated that it was “absolutely fucking insane.” The idea that the Defendant did not realize what was happening until he got home is as absurd as it is unbelievable.
Ninth, the Defendant claims he was one of the first individuals to provide video and pictures to law enforcement, as if he was just a good citizen coming forward to help the Government. That is simply not true. The Defendant came forward only after he was informed by his neighbor that the FBI had been outside his residence. At that point in time, federal authorities had already arrested numerous individuals, throughout the country, for their criminal conduct in the riot.
“The Defendant was not an innocent and unlucky tourist,” federal prosecutors concluded. “[H]e was an active participant in criminal behavior against a sitting branch of government.”
Reeder’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 18.
Several of the relevant case documents upon which this report was based are below. Read them in their entirety:
[All images are via the U.S. Department of Justice as they appear in federal court documents.]
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