March 31, 2023

Justice Department attorneys shut down the notion that the seditious conspiracy trial against the five Proud Boys leaders should be dismissed based on the footage Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired on his show last week, arguing that Carlson painted a misleading picture of a rioter’s activities that day.

“The televised footage lacks the context of what occurred before and after the footage,” prosecutors wrote in a Sunday court filing in response to defendant Dominic Pezzola’s — the Proud Boy who allegedly used a riot shield to initiate the breach of the Capitol — request to dismiss the case based on the newly public footage. 

In particular, Pezzola had focused on the so-called “QAnon shaman” Jacob Chansley, who Carlson depicted walking with police officers through the Capitol. Prosecutors said that this portrayal left out the most incriminating aspects of Chansley’s conduct.

The “footage shows Chansley’s movements only from approximately 2:56 p.m. to 3:00 p.m,” U.S. attorney’s said. “Prior to that time, Chansley had, amongst other acts, breached a police line at 2:09 p.m. with the mob, entered the Capitol less than one minute behind Pezzola during the initial breach of the building, and faced off with members of the U.S. Capitol Police for more than thirty minutes in front of the Senate Chamber doors while elected officials, including the Vice President of the United States, were fleeing from the chamber.”

Last Monday — weeks after receiving exclusive access to Jan. 6 security footage from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — Carlson took to his conspiracy theory swamp show to lay out his latest story, based on carefully selected video, to undermine the facts surrounding the Capitol attack. In addition to highlighting Chansley walking through Capitol hallways accompanied by police officers, he falsely claimed that the deadly riot was a “mostly peaceful chaos” with “sightseers” touring the building with police escorts.

Chansley — who pleaded guilty in a separate case for his role in the Jan. 6 riot — is not one of the five Proud Boy leaders who are a part of the seditious conspiracy case. But Pezzola — a defendant in the seditious conspiracy case — argues that the footage Carlson made public is exculpatory to his case and claims that the government withheld the footage.

Prosecutor’s pushed back on the allegations, stating that “the footage played on television was disclosed to defendant Pezzola,” according to the court filing.

They also said Pezzola’s argument that the footage shown on Fox News is exculpatory is “baseless,” adding “Chansley’s circumstances do nothing to mitigate Pezzola’s criminal exposure.”

The painfully selective edit of the Jan. 6 footage Carlson aired last week received a ton of bipartisan backlash, including from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for its misleading narrative. 

And on Tuesday the Justice Department argued that Jan. 6 defendants shouldn’t be allowed to delay their upcoming criminal trials based on speculation that the 40,000-plus hours of security footage might contain exculpatory evidence, after  Jan. 6 defendants Ryan Nichols and Shane Jenkins’ defense teams’ asked judges to delay their trials to review footage.

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