Immediately following an in-person meeting with his defense attorney, Robert Morss, a January 6 detainee held in part of the D.C. jail system used exclusively to incarcerate Capitol defendants, was subjected to a strip search where he was verbally and physically abused by prison guards.
Morss, a former Army ranger with three tours of duty in Afghanistan, was arrested in June and later indicted on numerous counts including assaulting a police officer and disorderly conduct. (Morss is named in a multi-defendant case with others who battled police near the lower west terrace tunnel, where law enforcement officers from D.C. Metro and Capitol police were attacking protesters.) In July, Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee to the D.C. District Court, denied Morss’ release pending trial.
Morss met with his attorney, John C. Kiyonaga, in advance of a status hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon. After Morss returned to the so-called “pod,” prison guards informed him he would need to be strip searched.
By telephone from the jail Thursday afternoon, Morss told me this was the fifth time he has been subjected to a strip search, but this time, guards ordered him to remove his underwear. “There were five guards there including a few I didn’t know,” Morss told me. “I asked for literature that authorized the strip search and they refused to answer.”
A female guard with a cell phone repeatedly asked Morss if he was resisting the strip search. Morss said officers with the ERT —he said it stands for Emergency Response Team—then handcuffed him and put him in a “black room” with a chair. One prison guard, Corporal Armstrong, was present as well. “They shoved me around and maced me,” Morss said. “When I opened my mouth, they pointed the can of mace toward my mouth.”
Morss “humiliating” search included graphic details of a sexual nature. (American Greatness will not disclose these details to protect Morss’ privacy.) “This was direct retaliation” for meeting with his lawyer, Morss told me.
Lawyers plan to file a motion seeking Morss’ release from the D.C. jail. On Wednesday, Judge Royce Lamberth issued a ruling to immediately transport Christopher Worrell, a cancer sufferer who’s been in the D.C. jail since April, to a jail in Alexandria, Virginia over fear he would be punished upon return to the jail after his hearing. Lamberth met with officials from the U.S. Marshall’s Service, the official custodian of January 6 defendants, last week for a briefing about conditions in the jail. One official told Lamberth that “staff members were observed antagonizing detainees, telling them not to cooperate with the (court-ordered) inspection.” Lamberth told federal prosecutors on Wednesday that some of the conduct by prison employees resulted in “civil rights and probably criminal violations.”
Nearly five months after his arrest, Morss still has no court date. McFadden has complained in court that Biden’s Justice Department is delaying discovery but has taken no actions to ensure the Constitutional and human rights of court-ordered detainees are being protected.