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DOJ Fights Bid To Dismiss Capitol Riot Cases Over Carlson Footage

The Justice Department has contested a bid by defense attorneys to have the seditious conspiracy case against the far-right group Proud Boys thrown out based on footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot aired by Fox News broadcasteer Tucker Carlson. A lawyer for Proud Boys defendant Dominic Pezzola asked a court to dismiss the case last week, citing Carlson’s show as he argued that prosecutors withheld surveillance footage from the riot and concocted “a lie” that an insurrection occurred that day in 2021, the Washington Post reports. The move emboldened other Jan. 6 supporters to call for a reversal of cases, such as the one involving Jacob Chansley, the “QAnon Shaman” who pleaded guilty in 2021 to obstructing Congress and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Carlson had shown footage of Chansley, the face-painted, horn-hatted supporter of President Trump, walking calmly through the Capitol halls with officers sometimes following him. The TV host argued that the videos show that Chansley was nonviolent and over-prosecuted by the government. Chansley’s former attorney alleged the footage had not been provided as it should have been.


Prosecutors responded that all but 10 seconds of Capitol surveillance footage, including the clips played by Carlson, had been released to Pezzola, Chansley and all defendants in September 2021. The clips shown by Carlson “are not exculpatory of Pezzola or any other participant in the siege of the Capitol,” said prosecutors. "Once tethered to facts and reality, defendant Pezzola’s arguments quickly unravel,” they wrote. At media outlets’ request, prosecutors made public footage that connects Chansley more directly to rioting than the brief clip aired on Carlson’s program. In two videos released Monday, and played in court in 2021, Chansley can be seen surging through a door moments after Pezzola is seen using a stolen police shield to smash a Capitol window to access the building. An earlier video shows Chansley among a powerful mob that overran a group of Capitol Police officers outside the building.

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