Thomas Robertson: January 6 trial of former Virginia police officer gets underway

During their opening statements, prosecutors cited online posts that Robertson allegedly wrote a month before the attack calling for “open armed rebellion.”

“The defendant kept that promise,” Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi told the jury, saying Robertson used a large stick to prevent officers from being called in for backup during the riot.

Robertson, a former officer with the Rocky Mount Police Department in Rocky Mount, Virginia, was off duty when he, along with a fellow officer, Jacob Fracker, and Robertson’s neighbor went to the Capitol that day, prosecutors say.

Fracker pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy after reaching a plea deal with the government, agreeing to cooperate in the case against Robertson. He faces up to five years in prison for his actions that day and is set to testify at trial.

According to prosecutors, Robertson left his police badge and firearm in his car near a subway stop on Jan. 6, 2021, and instead brought gas masks and a stick. Prosecutors say they will show police body camera footage of Robertson’s use of the baton, allegedly blocking police, during the trial.

In its opening statement, the defense, referring to Robertson as “TJ,” said the cane was simply a cane he used due to a limp he suffered after being shot in the right thigh while on deployment to Afghanistan as a private contractor. years. before.

According to the defense, the stick was “stuck in front of a police officer,” who then kicked it, adding that Robertson was not trying to hurt the officer.

The defense said Robertson only went to the Capitol to retrieve his “alleged friend” Fracker, who they say beat him to it.

“TJ knew he wasn’t supposed to be there,” defense attorney Camille Wagner told the jury. Wagner also said that Robertson should not be judged for what she wrote online because “social media is not reality” and repeated that “the cane was just for that, to walk.”

After initially being released following his arrest in January 2021, Robertson was rearrested and detained after he allegedly began stockpiling weapons and posting about future political violence on online message boards.

Investigators say they learned he had bought 37 guns online after his initial arrest and found bomb-making material in his home, all in violation of his release conditions, prosecutors say.

jury selection

On Monday, Judge Christopher Cooper, along with the defense and prosecution, surveyed a potential group of 75 jurors and asked them questions about Jan. 6, where they were that day and how they felt about the attack.

“I was driving home on January 6,” a potential juror said during individual interviews. “So I saw some of what was going on. Most of all, I was outraged that people would come here” and he would riot.

Every time Jan. 6 rolls around, “I feel pretty shaken,” another juror told the court.

“Obviously people have very strong opinions about January 6,” Cooper said Monday, adding that that alone was not a basis for a jury not to participate in the trial. “We are here to assess the innocence or guilt of a person.”

Other jurors said they worked at or near the Capitol. One person, a legislative director for a congresswoman, told the court that she knew people who were working on Capitol Hill that day.

“A number of my colleagues have sought advice” in the wake of Jan. 6, he said, adding, however, that he believed he could judge the case on its own merits.

Three jurors were removed from the group after telling the judge they couldn’t view Robertson’s case objectively.

“I really felt bad about what happened at the Capitol,” one man said, adding that he believed anyone who entered the building that day was in the wrong. “It wouldn’t be fair to him.”

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