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Ex-Cop Charged in U.S. Capitol Breach Claims ‘Partially Assembled Pipe Bomb’ Was Really a ‘Prop for Training’


Thomas Robertson via FBI
Asking a federal judge to keep him free on bond, a former police officer charged in connection with the U.S. Capitol siege claimed in an Independence Day defense filing that the “partially-assembled pipe bomb” the FBI allegedly found while searching his property was simply a “prop for training.”

Thomas Robertson, a 47-year-old former Rocky Mount, Va. police officer, was released on bond less than a week after his arrest on Jan. 13, a week after he allegedly breached the U.S. Capitol.

Prosecutors asked a federal judge on Wednesday to revoke his release order, citing an extensive supply of weapons the FBI allegedly found while searching Robertson’s house, including “loaded M4 rifle,” “several span cans of ammunition,” and a “partially-assembled pipe bomb.” The government motion seeking the defendant’s detention noted one box that contained—among other text—the words “booby trap” and what appeared to be materials for a pipe bomb.

The FBI says that it found this box marked "Booby Trap" when searching Robertson’s property.

The FBI says that it found this box marked “ALERRT kit, props, and booby trap sims” when searching Robertson’s property.

Defense lawyer Mark Rollins on July 4th filed a reply claiming that prosecutors glossed over the context: The full notation read “ALERRT kit, props, and booby trap sims.”

Short for “Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training,” ALERRT was developed by Texas State University and was subsequently named by the FBI as a standard in active shooter response training.  The FBI’s website discusses the program in greater detail.

“Furthermore, this partially assembled pipe found inside the box is not a destructive device as this device is used to teach students (Safety) in law enforcement as part of the ALERRT class,” his defense memo states. “Mr. Robertson was a level II instructor for ALERRT. This pipe is not active as it is a prop for training.”

Since the day of his arrest, Robertson has been prohibited having guns and other weapons and was given a deadline of moving the firearms by Jan. 15, but authorities claimed a search warrant executed four days later found weapons, including multiple Glocks. Prosecutors emphasized that timeline in a motion to revoke his bail, but the defense argues that the more appropriate date to judge his compliance is Feb. 25, the date of a subsequent court appearance. Robertson’s attorney claims his client has not possessed any firearm or destructive device since this date.

On Feb. 17, a search warrant was issued on Robertson’s Yahoo email account, prosecutors say. Authorities planned on using anything they found in their investigation into the Capitol breach, but they instead discovered evidence that the defendant was buying firearms and ammunition.

“I absolutely am interested. Price and quantity?” Robertson allegedly wrote on Feb. 13 to an unidentified Gmail account holder, who replied, “I have 1000 rounds on stripper clips of M855A1 $1800 shipped insured. I have 2000 rounds loose (delinked) M80A1 $10k shipped or 1000 rounds $5k shipped insured.”

Parsing the language of the prohibition, Robertson’s lawyer argues: “Ordering guns does not equate to possession.”

In a footnote, the defense motion claims that the weapons are “World War II-era guns” that are “nearly all over 50 years or old.”

“The Finnish Mosin nagants were made in 1939,” the footnote states. “All the M1 carbine were made in 1942 or 1943.”

Following his arrest in January, Robertson was fired along with 29-year-old K9 unit officer Jacob Fracker. Robertson told WSET-TV in a January 12 report that neither he nor Fracker participated in violence or property damage on Jan. 6th.

“CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business . . . [t]he right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol,” he is quoted as saying in social media posts, according to the FBI. “Keep poking us.”

Robertson has pleaded not guilty to all counts against him.

Read the defense memo below:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."