Capitol Rioter Convicted of Six Felonies

A former Virginia police officer has been found guilty, partly on the testimony of a former colleague.

POLITICO (“Jury convicts former Va. police officer for role in Jan. 6 riot“):

A former police officer from Rocky Mount, Va., was convicted Monday on multiple charges stemming from his role in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol, after a trial that featured harrowing footage of the mob and testimony from a co-defendant who once served with him on the force.

Thomas Robertson was convicted on multiple felony charges, including obstruction of Congress’ Jan. 6 session to count Electoral College votes, a central charge in hundreds of cases the Justice Department has brought against Jan. 6 rioters.

The result was a boost for the Justice Department, which has now won both Jan. 6-related jury trials that have been completed to date.

[…]

The most potent evidence in Robertson’s case likely came from co-defendant Jacob Fracker, who served on the police force with Robertson at the time of the Jan. 6 attack. Fracker pleaded guilty to his involvement in the breach and testified that Robertson was the driving force behind their actions that day. He also said Robertson helped get rid of their cell phones after Jan. 6, which led the jury to convict him on an evidence-tampering charge as well.

“I absolutely hate this,” Fracker said as he testified against his friend and former colleague. “I’ve always been on the other side of things. The good guys side, so to speak.”

[…]

Later, prosecutors showed jurors footage and images of Robertson and Fracker inside the building, including a crude selfie taken in the Capitol crypt.

“At the time, that was all fun and games,” Fracker recalled of his actions with Robertson. “That’s not the person I am … My mom would slap me in the face if she saw what I was doing that day. I sit here today ashamed of my actions. I didn’t have to do all that stuff, but I did.”

Because it was featured on memeorandum, this was the first report I read of the incident and my reaction was that, while Robertson was probably guilty of the charges, some of them struck me as a bit, no pun intended, trumped up. And, more importantly, Fracker’s testimony came across as contrived and self-serving.

Other reports, though, provide better context.

WaPo (“Former Va. officer convicted on all counts in the 2nd Jan. 6 jury trial“):

A former police officer from Rocky Mount, Va., whose bond was revoked last summer after he stockpiled firearms and endorsed political violence, was found guilty on all counts Monday at the second jury trial of a participant in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

[…]

Robertson, 49, and Jacob Fracker, 30, were fired from the Rocky Mount Police Department in early 2021 after a photo they took of themselves posing in front of a statue of John Stark inside the building on Jan. 6 was shared with police colleagues.

[…]

Prosecutors relied on Capitol surveillance video showing the men entering the building with the first 100 or so pro-Trump rioters who broke through the Senate wing doors and windows at 2:13 p.m. Minutes earlier, officer-worn body-camera video footage showed Robertson wearing a gas mask, holding a three-foot-long wooden stick in front of him and refusing to move when a D.C. police squad moved through the crowd to assist overwhelmed Capitol Police.

Afterward, Robertson celebrated the mob’s targeting of lawmakers, prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi said.

“We were stomping on the roof of their safe room chanting. WHO’S HOUSE, our HOUSE,” the U.S. Army veteran, angered at the outcome of the 2020 election, exulted in a Jan. 9 message on Facebook.

“A government scared of its people. The pictures of them huddled in the floor crying is the most American thing I have ever seen,” he wrote on Jan. 8, adding, “We … not Antifa. Stormed it.”

Prosecutors said Robertson’s own statements showed his purpose was to intimidate and impede Congress and that he planned for violence.

[…]

Initially released on personal recognizance after his January 2021 arrest, Robertson was jailed pending trial in July after he illegally stockpiled 34 firearms despite release conditions barring firearms possession, providing evidence that he had been “further radicalized” by his pending case, the judge ruled.

Days after the November 2020 election, Robertson wrote on Facebook: “A legitimate republic stands on four boxes: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and then the cartridge box.” He said he was preparing for the fourth step: “Being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line. I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. Im about to become part of one, and a very effective one.”

On Jan. 8, he added, “The next revolution started in DC 1/6/21. The only voice these people will now listen to is VIOLENCE,” saying that even if former president Donald Trump was done, he was prepared for “open armed rebellion” with “like minded and trained individuals.”

On June 10 as he was hoarding weapons, Robertson wrote in statements that prosecutors produced for his bond hearing but not at trial, “I’ve said before. They are trying to teach us a lesson. They have. But its definitely not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest than you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no fly list … I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon … cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.”

At trial, defense attorney Mark Rollins urged jurors to judge Robertson based on his actions, not his words, and not based on the actions of those around him.

A rather different picture!

To be sure, there are a lot of people who shitpost on social media about violent acts that have no intention of actually carrying them out. But stockpiling a massive cache of firearms—against the terms of one’s bail—is a rather huge red flag. And the age and seniority differences between the two then-officers makes it much more plausible that Hacker was indeed following Robertson’s lead. And the fact that they were in the first wave to enter the Capitol—wearing gas masks and brandishing a large stick—is certainly pretty strong evidence of premeditation.

Additionally, the POLITICO report gives the impression that the only evidence for the “violent entry” charge was pretty circumstantial. CNN‘s report, “Former Virginia police officer who stormed US Capitol found guilty on all charges,” sheds additional light:

During the trial, a DC Metropolitan Police officer testified that a man carrying a stick, who prosecutors say was Robertson, hit him and another officer as they tried to pass through the mob of rioters during the attack. Prosecutors played several clips of the incident, including footage from police body cameras worn that day.

Prosecutors cited online posts Robertson allegedly wrote a month before the attack where he called for an “opened armed rebellion.”

“The defendant made good on that promise,” assistant US attorney Elizabeth Aloi told the jury during opening arguments, saying that Robertson used a large stick to impede officers who were called in as back up during the riot.

So, basically, this guy committed multiple crimes in front of cameras; took a picture of himself doing it, which he posted to the Internet; posted evidence of violent intent on social media once the investigation got underway; disposed of his and his co-defendant’s cellphones by placing them into police evidence lockers; and then stockpiled firearms in violation of his terms of release while awaiting trial for violent crimes. This seems like a pretty clean case here. I’m surprised that it took the jury 14 hours to deliberate.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    Given how many MAGAheads there are out there, it’s a testament to how obvious his guilt was that it took only 14 hours to convict him.

    Give him the max sentence.

    9
  2. Scott F. says:

    Robertson wrote on Facebook: “A legitimate republic stands on four boxes: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and then the cartridge box.” He said he was preparing for the fourth step: “Being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line. I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. Im about to become part of one, and a very effective one.”

    Trump’s Big Lie was a match tossed in a tinderbox full of self-righteous “people who shitpost on social media about violent acts that have no intention of actually carrying them out.” POTUS gave permission for their violence.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And, more importantly, Fracker’s testimony came across as contrived and self-serving.

    Captain Obvious strikes again. What co-conspirator’s testimony isn’t self serving? They never pull the trigger, “It was him! He did it! I may be guilty but NOT of that!!!

    4
  4. Scott says:

    One of San Antonio’s fine citizens who:

    Last week, Uptmore pleaded in a separate case to illegally parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol, one of four charges he had faced in Washington, D.C., in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. He faces no more than six months in jail or probation, and restitution of $500 in that case.

    The self-proclaimed “weedaholic” now has been found locally guilty of a firearms charge:

    During the nonjury trial for Chance Anthony Uptmore, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery heard from a handful of witnesses called by prosecutors Mark Roomberg and Matthew Kinskey as they laid out allegations that federal agents found 16 pounds of marijuana, THC, hallucinogenic mushrooms and a .38-caliber revolver when they raided the Uptmore home a few days after the riot.

    Would have gotten away with just a handslap but no…had to play with drugs and firearms

    Capitol riot defendant from San Antonio convicted in gun case

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott F.: In a legitimate republic, there is no need for a cartridge box.

    4
  6. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You said their trigger word, “republic”. They’d all be happy to explain to you, at great length, how this was never supposed to be a democracy and to the extent it is, it’s illegitimate as a republic.

    2
  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Scott F.:

    POTUS gave permission for their violence.

    There is apparently discussion on the Jan. 6 Committee about whether to make a criminal referral of their findings to the DOJ.
    IMHO the best thing the Committee can do is to act legislatively to insure nothing like Trump’s insurgency can happen again.
    DOJ is either going to charge him or they won’t. The Committee referred Meadows for contempt and it went no where. So I would judge that path a waste.
    Clean up the Electoral vote process through legislation.
    And issue a clear, unambiguous, and direct finding that Trump did indeed stage an insurrection and rebellion against the US. I would think this would give some teeth to State level lawsuits aimed at keeping him and his co-conspirators off the ballots. There are currently lawsuits against Marge Green and Maddie Cawthorn but there have been no official findings to back them up. And there should be many more similar lawsuits…one in every State as far as I’m concerned.
    Should Cruz and Hawley and Gym Jordan and Mo Brooks ever be allowed to hold office again? Fuque no.

    3
  8. CSK says:

    Someone refresh me on what became of that grinning idiot who was photographed carrying the Speaker’s podium out of the Capitol.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: To which I always reply, “You are one ignorant mf’er.”

  10. Jax says:
  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: IIRC, he pleaded guilty, don’t recall what of.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    James, your trivializing what these gun nut fantasists do is part of our problem. When people who fetishize guns and who hold power construct bizarre macho fantasies about how heroism and honor requires them to start shooting people it is not just “shitposting”. It’s a damn big red flag that they may end up killing people. There is no meaningful difference between these guys and a high schooler that is violently fantasizing about bringing an assault gun to school. Sure, maybe most don’t act, but that doesn’t excuse their family, friends, classmates, coworkers, etc from calling in the authorities.

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  13. Mu Yixiao says:

    “A legitimate republic stands on four boxes: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and then the cartridge box.”

    He refused to accept #2, while #1, 3, & 4 got him sent to the hot box.

    Too bad he’s too stupid to appreciate the irony.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Jax: @OzarkHillbilly:
    Thanks to you both.

    He said he’d finally achieved his dream of being famous. For about two minutes you achieved it, dude. And for making a total ass of yourself in public.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Right. My point is that, based on the POLITICO account, my intuition was to dismiss the evidence. I tend to be highly skeptical of testimony that’s essentially bought by the prosecution.

    @MarkedMan: I’m not trivializing anything but rather assessing whether the state has met its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, the huge stockpile of guns strikes me as additional evidence to that end.

  16. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I wasn’t referring to your comments about Robertson but rather this:

    To be sure, there are a lot of people who shitpost on social media about violent acts that have no intention of actually carrying them out.

    This tut-tuts hugely troublesome behavior. People with gun collections who are going online or amongst their friends and talking about how they have to start killing people is what we should be looking for to identify terrorists and mass shooters, not something we should be normalizing, no matter how be common it is in the US.

    4
  17. Jax says:

    @CSK: And all these dumbass rioters claim to be “writing a book”. About what, your two months in the slammer? Oh, you poor, poor thing.

  18. CSK says:

    @Jax:
    Yes, I noted that Adam Johnson, the podium-snatcher, is purported to be “writing” a memoir. What’s he going to title it? Semi-Literate Ramblings of an Inconsequential Moron? That ought to zoom right to the pinnacle of the bestseller list.

    3
  19. Jay L Gischer says:

    @MarkedMan: There are very significant differences in attitudes about such speech evident across the country. I know people who have a quite liberal voting pattern that use such speech and condone it. Meanwhile, I was raised in a tradition where nobody spoke violence they didn’t intend to carry out. Which makes this sort of idle talk alarming.

    This appears to be a regional difference that kind of transcends politics, though it might well convert to a political ID thing.

    To be sure, I am not happy with idle talk of violence. Saying a thing is way too close to doing it. It is not one step but many on the way to perpetrating violence, even though it is not the same thing as violence, to be sure.

    However, I am very comfortable with the idea that we, as a society, always take threats of violence seriously. We’re trending that way, that’s good.

    3
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    And more likely that some other, less hinged person will take the comment as a call to action.

    1
  21. Jax says:

    @CSK: So is the spoiled rotten real estate agent who was sure she wasn’t gonna get in trouble cuz she was white. I have even less interest in her whining than I do podium guy’s babbling. 😛

  22. CSK says:

    @Jax:
    Yeah, I saw. I’d love to know who her “literary agent” might be. And who the publisher is. I’m betting “Self.”

    My favorite suggested title for this masterwork: Jane Eyrehead.

    4
  23. Not the IT Dept. says:

    “That’s not the person I am…”

    If there’s one phrase that I’m tired of reading, it’s that one. Lack of self-awareness + active fantasy life as an action hero = I’m not that loser. Serious need for therapy with these guys.

    2
  24. de stijl says:

    We have to be very careful about speech. Especially about speech we do not like.

    I’ve got no problems about prosecuting on acts.

    Every person who invaded the capitol complex needs to go to jail. Every person that assaulted CPS folks on the way in needs to go to actual prison for a long, long time.

    The preceeding rally was deplorable, intemperate, horrendous speech I hate, but it is protected speech. Because I do not like speech does not make it criminal.

    Up until they bum-rushed the building it was protected speech. A valid protest. Not one I liked or approved of, but protected.

    People who where there and did not beat on CPS cops, who did not enter the complex, are not on the hook. Assholes, yes, but not criminals.

    You could try to make a case out of incitement to riot, but that’s a hard charge to stick.

    Protesting is not a crime. Even “bad” protests you don’t like. This cuts both ways. Be careful where you draw the line.

    Acts are criminal. Physical stuff. Assaulting someone. Vandalism. Trespassing.

    Draw the line very carefully, because speech you approve of might be judged as criminal a year from now.

    4
  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: “That’s not the person I am…”

    They lie so easily to themselves.

    1
  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @de stijl:
    But you can’t, or shouldn’t, look at just that speech.
    This was a months long conspiracy, by many people, to overthrow the Government.
    Limiting your view to one speech would be like limiting Watergate to just the burglary.

    4
  27. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl:

    We have to be very careful about speech. Especially about speech we do not like.

    Just curious, are you a free speech absolutist? For instance, are violent threats against, say, women who develop video games an example of protected speech?

  28. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Violent threats generally aren’t protected by the First Amendment.

  29. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl:

    Draw the line very carefully, because speech you approve of might be judged as criminal a year from now.

    Per Karl Popper’ Paradox of Tolerance,

    if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Karl Popper described it as the seemingly paradoxical idea that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must retain the right to be intolerant of intolerance. – WIKI

    Popper expands,

    I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

    Perhaps I missed something, but protesters who did not at least enter a prohibited area have not been charged. Those charged are accused of committing crimes, not merely protesting. This was a clown act, but if we don’t stomp on it the next one may succeed. And Republicans will, as you say, criminalize speech. I should say continue to criminalize speech.

    And Putin is showing us where an intolerant society goes.

    2
  30. de stijl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Conspiracy to commit a crime is not protected speech.

    I was talking about street protests.

    1
  31. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    No. I’m not.

    In fact I was fairly active against “gamergate”, fuck you very much. Until realizing nothing I said would change any mind, I was pushing back.

    The insinuation is insulting.

    You are going to hair-split this. I know it.

  32. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @de stijl:
    But the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol Building was part and parcel of the conspiracy.

  33. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    My first thought (2nd, and 3rd too, FYIW) was what a joyous welcome he’s going to get when he does the “fresh meat” walk into the federal correctional facility he’s sentenced to. I doubt he’s going to live long enough to take geta shower, unless he goes straight into PC and stays in solitary. If I were a better person, I’d regret that.

    1
  34. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    Violent threats generally aren’t protected by the First Amendment.

    This may be nominally true, but practically very, very false. What penalties do misogynists encounter for making some poor soul’s life a living hell? Police won’t investigate because the person didn’t act. Prosecutors won’t charge. And just a couple of days ago two crazy gun nut bomb makers were let free because all their talk about kidnapping and killing a woman was “just big talk”.

    2
  35. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl:

    The insinuation is insulting.

    It was not an insinuation. It was a serious question asked out of curiosity. Andy, for one, has called himself “close to a free speech absolutist”, so I was curious where you put yourself on the spectrum.

    1
  36. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Sorry I overreacted. I apologize.

    1
  37. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl: No worries. A comments section cannot convey facial expressions or tone of voice, which cause a lot of misunderstandings.

    1