Michael Fanone, the former D.C. Metropolitan police officer using his presence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 as a pathway to fame and fortune, is on a major publicity blitz. Along with his Pulitzer-prize finalist co-author, Fanone managed to turn his 30-minute struggle that afternoon into a 256-page book: Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop’s Battle for America’s Soul is an “urgent warning about the growing threat to our democracy from a twenty-year police veteran and former Trump supporter who nearly lost his life during the insurrection of January 6th.
Never mind that Fanone was well enough on the evening of January 6 to call CNN and complain about its news coverage or that he sat for a lengthy interview with a Washington Post reporter a few days later. Fanone is part of a quartet of celebrity cops juicing every second of their involvement in the four-hour disturbance nearly two years ago, earning lucrative book deals, congressional awards, and cable news gigs in the process.
Fanone has lots to say in his memoir—heavily sprinkled with obscenities—while ranting about Donald Trump and his supporters. (Fanone begins with a brazen lie that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died of “wounds” sustained on January 6.)
He condemns Republican lawmakers for refusing to go along with the “insurrection” narrative and he names names: A secretly recorded meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is described in the book. “While you were on the phone with [Trump], I was getting the shit kicked out of me, almost losing my life,” Fanone told McCarthy in 2021. “The way that he, you know, saying this is what happens when you steal an election. Go home. I love you. What the fuck is that!?”
But one name is missing from Fanone’s profane screed: Michael A. Maddox.
And for good reason. In 2014, the District of Columbia settled a lawsuit filed against two D.C. Metro police officers for violating the civil rights of Maddox, a black attorney working at the time in the legal department at Howard University. The city paid Maddox $175,000 in damages.
One of the officers named in the lawsuit was Michael Fanone.
On the afternoon of October 8, 2009, Maddox was standing on the corner of 5th and K Streets looking at his BlackBerry when Fanone and his partner, Officer Samuel Modin, confronted him. “Maddox sensed the presence of two individuals assuming aggressive positions when he was suddenly and without warning cornered and seized by—Modin while Defendant Officer Michael Fanone blocked Maddox’s only other means of escape,” Maddox’s lawyers wrote in a 2010 complaint. Modin shoved Maddox, an Air Force veteran, against a garbage dumpster.
Modin then forced Maddox’s arms over his head and Fanone interrogated him. “Do you have any weapons or drugs on you, sir?” Fanone asked. (According to the timeline in Fanone’s book, he was on the vice squad in 2009.)
Modin proceeded to frisk Maddox while Fanone stood in an “aggressive posture.” Modin, under Fanone’s watchful eye, conducted three “testicle-striking attempts” to find contraband in Maddox’s pockets, finding nothing more than his BlackBerry hip holder and a money clip.
When Maddox asked Fanone what the problem was, Fanone responded that it was a “high crime area.”
Neither officer identified himself or explained the reason for the aggressive search; as Fanone and Modin attempted to depart the scene of the assault, Maddox grabbed his cell phone to record their faces so he could later file a report with D.C. police.
And that’s when Fanone flew into a rage.
“Maddox’s videotape commences with Defendant Fanone halting his progress to the patrol car, covering his face in an ill-fated, last-ditch effort to continue to mask his identity from Maddox and reversing his direction of travel to advance on Maddox’s position standing on a public sidewalk holding his cell phone.” Fanone angrily walked toward Maddox, asking if there “was something he could help with” and got “face-to-face” with Maddox. “Put the camera away!” Fanone demanded.
Fearful that Fanone would physically assault him, Maddox backed away. “Put another way, at that moment on his cellphone video, Maddox alleges that he was assaulted by Defendant Officer Fanone.” Maddox twice asked Fanone why he had to stop recording; Fanone did not answer. When Maddox asked Modin on what basis the officers shoved, searched, and menaced him that afternoon, Modin replied they were conducting a “citizen’s contact.”
In other words: Maddox was “standing while black.”
During his 2013 deposition, Fanone denied that Maddox had been frisked. He also didn’t recall telling Maddox to put his camera away—until he watched Maddox’s cell phone video that showed the confrontation. In a sworn declaration, Fanone insisted that “Mr. Maddox’s race was not a consideration in my actions toward him.”
Maddox sought $3 million in damages, accusing Fanone and Modin of using “their personal prejudices, biases, stereotypes, generalizations, and profiles” as justification for conducting the illegal search.
The parties settled the suit on March 7, 2014 with the city as the sole remaining defendant paying Maddox the $175,000 judgment. (To reach the agreement, Fanone and Modin were dropped as defendants the day before.)
While Fanone doesn’t mention the incident or lawsuit in his autobiography, he does offer his own deep thoughts on the question of pervasive racism in law enforcement. “There’s a long history of racism in this country and unfortunately law enforcement has played a significant part in that,” Fanone wrote. “During my two decades on the force, I encountered anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, and anti-gay officers. I met MPD officers and supervisors who were white supremacists, or who were at least sympathetic to white supremacists and shared Trump’s views on race.”
The question is—during his 20 years as a D.C. police officer, did Fanone himself contribute to the climate he describes? It’s hard to believe that Fanone’s unwarranted, angry handling of Michael Maddox was an outlier; the city sought, and received, a protective order concealing from the court docket both officers’ personnel records including “disciplinary and/or adverse action files.”
That order was signed by Beryl Howell, the current chief judge of the D.C. District Court handling roughly 900 criminal cases related to the Justice Department’s Capitol “siege” prosecution as well as grand jury proceedings tied to a potential indictment against Donald Trump.
Which raises another more important question: Why hasn’t a single journalist, obsessively reporting on the events of January 6, uncovered this bombshell about Fanone? Are we to believe Judge Howell, her staff, D.C. city officials, and D.C. Metro police officers just forgot about this lawsuit?
After all, Fanone made the rounds in Howell’s courthouse a few weeks ago during a sentencing hearing for one of the individuals convicted in the attack on Fanone on January 6. “I hope you suffer!” Fanone screamed at Kyle Young before he was sentenced to seven years in prison for participating in the confrontation. “The assault on me by Mr. Young cost me my career. It cost me my faith in law enforcement and many of the institutions I dedicated two decades of my life to serving.”
Further, it’s not like Maddox was some lowlife drug dealer—he was legal counsel for the preeminent black university in the country. (Attempts to reach Mr. Maddox have so far been unsuccessful.)
Only one of two reasons explains the blackout on this story: No reporter bothered to look into Fanone’s background, or some reporters knew but buried the story.
What remains to be seen going forward is whether any groveling interviewer will ask Fanone about the Maddox case during his ongoing book tour or dig into his records at the D.C. Metropolitan police department. For the better part of two years, Fanone has fueled a hateful, destructive, and in some instances, untrue narrative about the Capitol protest while falsely claiming “white supremacists” planned the violence that day.
It’s long past time for a mainstream journalist or cable news talking head—those responsible for elevating Fanone to hero-martyr status—to ask him about Michael Maddox.