A Life Destroyed for ‘Parading’ at the Capitol

After Robert Reeder was arrested in February and charged with four misdemeanors for his involvement in the Capitol protest on January 6, he lost his job as a truck driver for FedEx. “As a result of his arrest in this matter, he has been placed on administrative leave/has been terminated,” Reeder’s attorney wrote in court filing. “He has not been able to secure steady employment since being charged in this matter.”

Reeder, like many Americans who attended Donald Trump’s speech then walked to Capitol Hill, went alone. He is a registered Democrat but supported some of Trump’s policies. The Maryland resident decided to travel to Washington on the morning of January 6, a “spur of the moment” decision, according to his attorney.

After suffering the effects of tear gas and sting balls launched by police officers outside the building—a reality the news media still refuses to cover—Reeder went inside the building to look for water to rinse his eyes. From all accounts, he was allowed into the building. While inside, Reeder marveled at the beauty of the Capitol and urged others “do not destroy anything.” He asked police how he could get out of the building as the situation between law enforcement and protesters escalated.

Reeder took selfies and videos of his experience. “I’m leaving now . . . I got tear gassed at least four times inside the Capitol . . . I saw the lady they say got shot, I walked right past her in a pool of blood,” he said in one video. “And it’s just . . . completely crazy in there.” After he entered a second time—police were not allowing protesters to exit the grounds so Reeder was looking for a way out through the building—he said in another post that he was “gassed several times . . . and shot with pepper balls.”

Although Reeder has no criminal record and prosecutors admit he did not commit any violent crime on January 6, Biden’s Justice Department wants Reeder to go to jail for two months. He pleaded guilty to one count of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building,” a common low-level charge levied against hundreds of Americans who entered the Capitol building on January 6. Prosecutors want to make an example of Reeder despite the fact he essentially turned himself in to law enforcement and quickly negotiated a plea arrangement.

Guilty of Sharing Memes

But as is the case in all January 6 prosecutions, the government is showing no mercy; Reeder, not charged with anything close to “rioting” or mob activity, nonetheless is branded a criminal by Joe Biden’s Justice Department. “[I]t is important to convey to future rioters and would-be mob participants—especially those who intend to improperly influence the democratic process—that their actions will have consequences,” assistant U.S. attorney Joshua Rothstein wrote in the government’s sentencing memo. “Picketing, demonstrating, or parading at the Capitol as part of the riot on January 6 is not like picketing at the Capitol some other day, without other rioters present.”

Rothstein ticked off a list of notables who have lain in state at the Rotunda, including former presidents and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then condemned Reeder for daring to enter such a sacred place. “[H]is very presence in the Capitol rotunda that day was a desecration of hallowed ground,” Rothstein wrote.

To add insult to injury, prosecutors are citing Reeder’s now-deleted Facebook activity to bolster their argument he should spend two months in jail. The memes and messages don’t show any criminal intent; there’s no evidence Reeder planned to commit any violent crime on January 6 based on his social media account.

The posts do show Reeder’s doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. For months, the Justice Department and federal judges have condemned defendants for refusing to accept the election’s outcome. (In fact, during his interrogation, one FBI agent asked Reeder if he believed the election was “stolen.” Reeder answered no.) But this is one of the more flagrant examples of how the government is using someone’s disbelief that Joe Biden fairly won the election to justify jail time.

One meme shows a woman covered with dozens of “I Voted” stickers with the title, “Democrats Going to the Polls 2020.” Another is a photo of Joe Biden holding up a sign that reads, “Donald Trump is still your president.” Other memes included photos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lt. General Mike Flynn, and George Soros.

Prosecutors included several Facebook replies posted by Reeder. “Unbelievable!” he wrote on December 11, 2020. “Almost a month-and-a-half after the election, the Democrats are still finding mysterious ballots . . . in there (sic) fourth attempt to overthrow the election results that have been recounted 3 times in favor of the Republican . . . Democrats just can’t stop cheating and lying!”

The government also listed the Facebook groups that Reeder joined including “Joe Biden Is Not My President,” and “Stop the Steal.”

The Press Piles On

Of course, no American life can be fully destroyed without the gleeful complicity of the news media. Just hours before Reeder’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday, a group called “Sedition Hunters” claimed it found video showing Reeder “assaulting” a police officer. Journalists offered to get the information to the U.S. Attorney’s office handling the case; as Reeder tried to enter the courtroom Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Reilly, a Huffington Post reporter, attempted to show the videos to Reeder. Reilly later bragged on Twitter that Reeder “started breaking down” when Reilly approached him with the clips.

Based on the new evidence—one clip actually shows a U.S. Capitol Police officer attacking Reeder and Reeder’s attorney said he believed other parts of the video were exculpatory—the judge delayed sentencing until October 8. This will give the Justice Department time to prepare new charges if warranted and give the news media plenty of time to forever brand Robert Reeder as a cop assaulter, even if he’s never charged as such. Prosecutors immediately filed to increase his prison sentence to six months.

As Reeder and his lawyer left the courthouse, Reeder was slumped with his head down and hands folded in front of him. At that point Reeder was accosted by a reporter for a local news station. “I just want to ask you about your relationship with your 14-year-old son . . . says it’s been strained . . . what has he said to you about this?” asked Eric Flack, a reporter for WUSA-TV in Washington. Robert Bonsib, Reeder’s attorney, called Flack a “son-of-a-bitch” for asking about his personal life.

“These are in court documents, sir!” Flack squealed. “It’s a completely fair question! And that’s what I’m asking about, the impact on the relationship with his son.”

Reeder said nothing. He hung his head lower, quietly got into his lawyer’s car, and placed a shirt between his face and the car window so the predatory reporter could not get more footage.

CNNs Jake Tapper picked up the story on Thursday. “A charged insurrectionist’s sentencing was just pushed back after online sedition hunters . . . unearthed this video apparently showing Robert Reeder beating up a police officer,” Tapper said. The anchor credited a group called “Sedition Hunters” for successfully delaying Reeder’s sentencing on the misdemeanor charge.

Reilly, the Huffington Post reporter who tried to show Reeder the new video before the hearing, appeared on MSNBC Thursday night to preen about Sedition Hunters’ work against Reeder. “It’s this remarkable moment when online sleuths completely changed the trajectory of a federal prosecution,” Reilly said. Reilly accused Reeder of “lying to the FBI.”

Bonsib, in a motion to the court, explained how Reeder’s life has been destroyed. “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 [a] 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 protesters that assaulted the Capitol.”

But he will be—and that is precisely what Joe Biden, his Justice Department, and the twisted news media want. Without regard to the degree of maliciousness involved (or lack of it) in someone’s participation in the Capitol protest, Democrats and the news media will do whatever it takes to permanently brand all of the accused as “domestic terrorists” or “insurrectionists” who tried to take down the U.S. government.

They don’t care how many lives they destroy in the process. In fact, the more, the better.

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: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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