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Judge Lets QAnon Adherent Who Apparently Mistook U.S. Capitol for the White House Out of Jail Before Trial


image of Doug Jensen in QAnon shirt

One day after the release of a video appearing to show the defendant mistaking the U.S. Capitol for the White House, a federal judge granted bond on Tuesday to a QAnon adherent charged with storming the building he incorrectly identified.

Citing that video in making his decision, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly found QAnon believer Douglas Jensen does not appear as though he could have have planned or coordinated the siege of the U.S. Capitol when he appeared to have “no basic understanding of where he even was that day.”

Despite finding Jensen’s alleged aim to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power “quite a grave matter,” the judge found that a strict regime of home confinement would guarantee his attendance at a future trial.

His ruling fell one day after the release of a video on Monday night showing Jensen with his hand on the U.S. Capitol and declaring: “This is me, touching the fucking White House.”

On Tuesday morning, Jensen appeared virtually in federal court in Washington, D.C., to hear a ruling on the challenge of his detention order. Prosecutors identify him as the man who spearheaded the mob chasing Officer Eugene Goodman up two flights of stairs of the building, wearing a QAnon T-shirt with the conspiratorial group’s slogans “Trust the Plan” and “Where We Go One, We Go All.”

Prosecutors also depict him as a particularly dangerous and dogmatic member of the pro-Donald Trump mob.

“Douglas Jensen wanted to be the ‘poster boy” for the events that unfolded at the Capitol on January 6,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hava Mirell wrote in a 22-page memo. “And, in his words, ‘it really worked out.’ The harrowing footage of Jensen spearheading the menacing pursuit of Officer Goodman up two flights of stairs remains one of the most infamous videos from January 6. A self-proclaimed ‘digital soldier’ and ‘religious’ adherent of QAnon, Jensen traveled to Washington D.C. because he was ‘all about a revolution,’ and was ‘trying to fire up this nation.'”

Judge Kelly made clear that his release order did not intend to minimize Jensen’s alleged actions—or Officer Goodman’s heroism.

“But for the heroic actions of Officer Goodman, we do not know where the mob would have ended up,” Kelly said.

For Kelly, however, the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in the case of so-called “zip-tie guy” Eric Munchel showed that “liberty is the norm” for pre-trial detention—even in Capitol breach cases. Munchel was photographed carrying plastic handcuffs throughout the Capitol building.

Tuesday’s ruling restores one of Jensen’s earliest victories in his Capitol breach prosecution, before his transfer to Washington, D.C.

On Jan. 26, U.S. Magistrate Judge Helen Adams in Iowa ordered Jensen’s release on bond, in a decision later blocked upon his transfer to the District of D.C..

Reanimating his client’s bid for pre-trial release, Jensen’s lawyer Christopher M. Davis depicted his client as a dupe of Trump and the right-wing corners of the internet.

“A billionaire reality TV show host turned president becoming the savior to a disillusioned/pandemic-weary, largely blue-collar working-class middle America,” his 10-page defense memo states. “The internet, with its lightning speed, and few if any reality checks, spawned yet an even more bizarre offshoot, QAnon — described as an American far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles run a global child sex trafficking ring and conspired against former President Donald Trump during his term in office. The media lies, the government is corrupt, and the election was stolen was the message.”

“It is against this backdrop, Douglas Jensen went to the U.S. Capitol to observe what he thought was going to be ‘The Storm,’ the moment all those with ideologies at odds with what he was hearing and reading on the internet were going to be arrested.”

Davis said that his client went to the Capitol to “observe,” but prosecutors scoffed at that notion.

“While he claims now to have been there only to ‘observe’ the arrest of lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence, his actions that day tell a different story,” prosecutors wrote. “From scaling the outer walls of the Capitol, to climbing through broken windows, and ultimately threatening the life of a United States Capitol Police officer, Jensen’s actions evinced an intent to disrupt the legitimate and most sacred function of the United States Congress – and a willingness to resort to violence to do so.”

Judge Kelly read his ruling from the bench.

[Image via SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]

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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."