© Reuters. The U.S. Capitol is seen through ice-covered tree branches above barbed wire on a security fence after the Senate voted to acquit former U.S. President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial, in Washington, U.S. February 13, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott/Fi
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Next January will be the earliest possible start of any trial for members and associates of the Oath Keepers militia movement facing Jan. 6 riot charges, giving prosecutors and defense lawyers time to comb through massive volumes of evidence and prepare, attorneys told a federal court hearing on Tuesday.
Four participants in the violent Jan. 6 protests at the U.S. Capitol connected to the right-wing Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to riot related charges. But lawyers for 16 other defendants facing charges outlined in a fifth superseding indictment appeared at a status hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Tuesday.
Eugene Rossi, a lawyer for riot defendant William Isaacs, said prosecutors had deluged defense lawyers with an “avalanche of documents” like the flow “out of a fire hydrant.” He said so far 90,572 documents had been turned over to defendants as well as days full of video recordings.
Michelle Peterson, a public defender representing accused rioter Jessica Watkins, among a handful of Oath Keeper defendants still in pre-trial custody, complained that there were areas of the Capitol where amateur videographers may have captured “exculpatory” behavior by rioters that could help clear them from charges, but which occurred in Capitol corridors not covered by government video cameras.
A government affidavit said defendants traveled to Washington carrying paramilitary gear and wearing clothes with Oath Keepers insignias. At the Capitol, investigators alleged, 10 defendants formed a “stack” which marched single file up the east side stairs of the Capitol, with hands on the person in front, then forced their way through the central Rotunda.
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