No Relief for Lego Man or Other January 6 Detainees

Joe Biden’s Justice Department wants the Lego Man kept behind bars—indefinitely.

Federal agents seized a plastic replica of the Capitol building from the Pennsylvania home of Robert Morss during his arrest on June 11. Justice Department officials are citing the Lego model as evidence in the criminal case against Morss for his involvement in the January 6 protest: “During his arrest, law enforcement recovered some clothing and other items that appear to match those he carried with him on the 6th—including a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag, a neck gaiter, a military utility bag, a black tourniquet, and military fatigues. (Law enforcement also recoverd [sic] a fully constructed U.S. Capitol Lego set.)”

So wrote government prosecutors in a July 2 filing asking the D.C. District Court to deny Morss’ release while he awaits trial on nine counts, including assaulting police officers and disorderly conduct. 

While dangerous criminals daily threaten the safety of innocent people in cities across the country—and many are released on bail—the FBI continues its nationwide manhunt for Capitol protesters while the Justice Department repeatedly petitions the court to keep the accused incarcerated for months on end.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who despicably compares January 6 to the Oklahoma City bombing, recently bragged his office reached a “benchmark” of 500 arrests. (Who knew criminal investigations had quotas?). In more than 100 cases and counting, Garland’s prosecutors have sought and often received pretrial detention for first-time offenders, including defendants not accused of committing any violent crimes.

The government’s justification for keeping Capitol defendants in jail until either a plea agreement or trial is that the events of January 6 were uniquely horrific and anyone who participated poses a threat to the country. 

“Morss’s dangerousness is not limited to his past actions, but presents a future threat,” assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Jackson warned in the July 2 detention motion. “It is difficult to fathom a more serious danger to the community—to the District of Columbia, to the country, or to the fabric of American Democracy—than the one posed by someone who knowingly and eagerly engaged in a violent insurrection to occupy the United States Capitol and abort the certification of a lawful and fair election.”

Really? It’s “difficult” to think of a worse threat than unarmed and often nonviolent Americans who participated in what they believed to be a legitimate protest against a clearly rigged presidential election? Perhaps Jackson can explain her logic to the heartbroken mother of Max Lewis, a 20-year-old University of Chicago student who was shot and paralyzed while riding a CTA train on July 1 and who had to instruct his parents by blinking at them to take him off life support. Or to the other family members of victims killed in America’s surging crime wave.

But what Jackson and her fellow prosecutors want more than justice is revenge—to punish Americans who repudiate the election of Joe Biden. It’s unimaginable to think any other president or attorney general could get away with such a politically flagrant use of the most destructive government legal powers, but here we are.

Dozens of defendants have languished in a D.C. jail for months without any relief in sight. This week, the D.C. Court of Appeals refused to overturn the pretrial detention order for Timothy Hale-Cusanelli who was arrested on January 15 and has remained behind bars ever since.

A New Jersey judge initially ordered Hale released on conditions but the government quickly moved to keep him incarcerated. A federal judge agreed.

Hale, an Army reservist for the past 11 years, was working as a security contractor at a naval station in New Jersey when he traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the “Stop the Steal” rally for President Trump. Afterwards, Hale was spied on by a friend wearing a wire and investigated by naval intelligence—which included officials interviewing nearly four dozen of his co-workers in an effort to substantiate Hale’s “white supremacist ideology”—for his role in the protest. (More on his egregious case in a future article.)

Hale is not charged with any violent crime; he didn’t assault officers or bring a weapon or vandalize federal property.

But prosecutors insisted Hale is a threat to society. “Not only is Defendant’s enthusiasm for Nazi Sympathizer/White Supremacist ideology well documented, Defendant has made clear that this ideology is the driving force behind his desire to start ‘a Civil War,’ and that this motivation is inextricably bound up with his participation in the January 6 Capitol riot,” prosecutors wrote in April. Hale’s alleged “animus” toward certain groups, not necessarily his actions on January 6, make him a menace to society.

Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, agreed and denied Hale’s release. Hale’s lawyer appealed.

But any hope Timothy Hale will be released before his trial begins next year was crushed after three D.C. Circuit Court judges, including Naomi Rao, another Trump appointee, decided “not to substitute our judgment for that of the District Court.” Referring to the lower court’s citation of Hale having repeated Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote that “the tree of liberty should be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” the appellate judges argued “it is not obviously wrong to conclude that these statements, taken as a whole, demonstrate a potential danger to the community.”

So now an offhanded mention to a wired-up rat fink about a famous line uttered by the author of the Declaration of Independence can be used against that person in a court of law.

The founders weep.

Hale isn’t the only January 6 defendant who won’t see the light of day for at least the next several months. Judge Royce Lamberth this week once again denied the release of Jacob Chansely, the so-called “QAnon shaman” incarcerated since his arrest in mid-January. Like Hale, Chansely is not charged with a violent crime. In fact, videos show Chansley speaking with police officers inside the building on numerous occasions.

Chansley, a Navy veteran, was arrested on January 9; the Justice Department immediately petitioned for pretrial detention. “The defendant has espoused disbelief in the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, and violently acted on that world view,” prosecutors wrote in February. (He didn’t act violently.) “Given his participation in the obstruction of the normal functioning of the government, and his disbelief in the legitimacy of the current United States government, it is unlikely that the defendant will obey any pretrial release condition.”

In March, Lamberth agreed with the government and ordered Chansley kept behind bars. “Were the defendant released pending trial, he would have the opportunity to again attempt to disrupt the United States government or harm members of Congress,” Lamberth wrote. (Neither Chansley nor any of the more than 500 defendants have been charged with attempting to harm members of Congress.)

Chansley now sits in a cell for 23 hours a day, according to his attorney, in a Colorado jail. A mental health examination is pending and his condition is deteriorating, his lawyer said in a court filing. But Lamberth claims Chansley, who had lived with his mother in Arizona, is a flight risk. “[T]he court will not revisit its prior finding that no conditions of release would reasonably prevent him from fleeing,” Lamberth concluded this week.

Another preposterous accusation. But what Lamberth, a 78-year-old Reagan appointee and longtime Beltway fixture, cannot say in open court is that releasing Chansley would greatly undermine the notion that January 6 was a deadly, violent insurrection executed by dangerous Trump supporters to overthrow the government. Chansley is the face of that insurrection; letting him go jeopardizes the entire narrative.

So Robert Morss, too, should expect to remain in jail for at least the next few months. His bail hearing is scheduled for July 13 before Judge Michael Harvey but it’s unlikely Harvey will object to the government’s request.

Prospects also look dim for the two men charged in the “attack” on Officer Brian Sicknick. Both Julian Khater and George Tanios have been in a D.C. Jail since March and were denied bail by Judge Thomas Hogan in May. Tanios’ public defender filed an appeal this week; his client has no criminal record and is not accused of directly spraying Sicknick or any other officer. But like Chansley, Tanios and Khater are crucial political props to sustain the lie that Sicknick somehow died as a result of the January 6 protest.

President Trump finally is speaking out against the abusive prosecution of hundreds of his supporters. “People are being treated unbelievably unfairly,” Trump said during a July 7 event. “When you look at people in prison, and nothing happens to Antifa . . . there were no guns in the Capitol.”

Good thing Antifa thugs weren’t caught with Legos.

 

About Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. She is the co-host of ‘Happy Hour podcast with Julie and Liz.’ She is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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