Judge in Kansas man’s Jan. 6 cases want more info on video given Tucker Carlson, others

A federal judge on Friday delayed ruling on a Topeka man’s request to release video in his Capitol riot case that he says shows undercover Metropolitan Police officers inciting protesters on Jan. 6.

US District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that before ruling on defendant William Pope’s request, he wanted to know more about news reports this week that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to make more than 40,000 hours of Capitol security footage available to the broader public and to lawyers of defendants charged in connection with the insurrection.

The debate over the release of security footage from Jan. 6 intensified last month when McCarthy faced criticism for granting Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to view the videos. On Tuesday, the speaker said he would provide access to others as well.

“I’d like to hear more from the government on what I’m reading in the papers about production of the CCTV (closed circuit television) video to Tucker Carlson and, after a point of exclusivity, to other news outlets,” Contreras said during Pope’s hearing, held via video conference in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Contreras said it also appeared that disclosures were being made to defendants on a case-by-case basis.

“I don’t know what ‘case-by-case basis’ means and why the speaker gets to choose which defendants get to see what,” Contreras said. “I know that the Capitol Police is not the speaker’s office. But it seems from what I’m reading in the papers that the Capitol Police has been involved in those discussions.”

The judge said he wanted a sworn declaration from the Capitol Police within two weeks “as to exactly what all those things mean and whether there’s been any restrictions whatsoever as to what the press can do with those CCTV videos once they receive them.”

“From what I read, Tucker Carlson seems to think he has unfettered discretion what he can do with those videos…This circuit has said you have to guard privileges like crown jewels. If the press is given unfettered access to these videos, they don’t seem to be treating these things like crown jewels.”

Contreras set Pope’s next hearing for April 3.

Pope faces eight charges in the Capitol riot, including civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding — both felonies — as well as disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and impeding passage through a Capitol building or grounds. One count involves allegedly trying to force open a door inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite.

Pope is acting as his own attorney in his case and has filed a series of motions asking Contreras to compel the government to provide him unrestricted access to discovery material he says he is entitled to have.

The government is violating his rights, Pope argues, by failing to give him full access to the material and release documents deemed “sensitive” and “highly sensitive” that he says show police encouraging protesters to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6. Pope said that attorneys representing Jan. 6 defendants are given full access to the discovery databases in order to prepare a defense, and that same access should be available to defendants acting as their own attorneys.

Pope’s ongoing battle for the discovery material has been widely discussed in right-wing circles, and even as his case winds through federal court, he posts continuous updates on social media. His Twitter post about undercover MPD officers got thousands of retweets.

During Friday’s hearing, Contreras told Assistant US Attorney Kelly Moran that the government’s argument against releasing the Metropolitan Police videos to Pope was vague. Moran told the judge that the government did not believe the videos were relevant to Pope’s criminal case.

“Mr. Pope candidly says that he wants to share this information with the public and wants to use media in this case,” Moran said. “And one of the reasons we have a protective order in place is to protect the integrity of the judicial process.”

But Contreras said that discovery typically is not subject to a protective order unless there is a special reason. “And I’m not hearing a particularly special reason,” he said.

Moran said the government’s concern is that wide release of the material could be a safety issue for the officers involved.

“And it also could have great relevance to the cases of those individuals who did directly interact with the individuals in the crowd who were filming on that GoPro video,” she said. “So it’s more a matter of trying to protect the sanctity of other cases, as well as the physical safety of the officers who were participating in filming on this GoPro video.”

Contreras said he was sensitive to the concern that it could put the officers at risk but said the government’s filing did not provide much legal or factual support for its argument. He added that many defendants use the press for their own purposes, particularly in high-profile cases.

“And I didn’t see anything in your pleading that prevents him (Pope) from doing that under the law,” he said. “So under the protective order, I believe it’s your burden, and I’m not sure you’re there.”

Pope told Contreras that the day after the Capitol riot, the Justice Department “rushed to do a press conference and taint the reputations and inflame public perception of everyone who came to Washington, DC, that day.”

“They have been using the press for two years to try to taint and poison the jury pool,” he said. “And I have the right to use my First Amendment rights to defend myself.”

He said he wasn’t out to hurt any officers.

“But the public deserves to know what happened on January 6, and at every trial, we got … a montage video of how they say events unfolded,” he said. “And defendants should have a right to present a similar video showing how events unfolded, including how events unfolded by the influence of police that day. So this video should be public.”

Pope also complained that the government had not responded to any of his emails since the last court hearing.

Contreras addressed Moran: “I need you to communicate with Mr. William Pope. But your pleading from last night is dripping with annoyance. You may very well be annoyed with Mr. William Pope, but he’s who you have to deal with. So I need you to deal with him professionally, as you would with counsel.”

The judge was referring to the government’s court filing late Thursday in which it said that the Pope “continues to tug at an imaginary rope, hoping to unfurl a grand conspiracy that does not exist.”

In his efforts to prove his “vague theories” of “undercover provocateurs,” the government said, “Pope completely misses the forest for the trees: such theories do not absolve him of the crimes he committed.”

Pope also filed a document with the court on Thursday. He said that throughout his case, “my prosecutors have behaved like rabid outlaws rushing the city jail in a western movie, whooping and hollering for this court to violate my Constitutional rights and to rush me to the nearest tree with a noose around my neck. “

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