KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The public defenders representing William Chrestman, one of three local men arrested last week for participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, blamed former President Trump in a brief filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for Kansas.
Essentially, the defense argues that Trump “actively misled” his supporters “told the assembled rabble what they must do” and then “ratified their actions” with praise on social media.
“The former President gave that permission and privilege to the assembled mob on January 6,” Chrestman’s attorneys, Kirk C. Redmond and Chekasha Ramsey, said in a Detention Memorandum arguing for his pretrial release from federal custody. “Trump’s incitement and enablement of this insurrectionary riot weighs heavily against the weight of the evidence prong, because the mob was given explicit permission and encouragement by the former President to do what they did.”
To punish him for his actions pursuant to Trump’s direction would violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, his attorneys argued in the memo.
Chrestman’s attorneys contend that Chrestman believed he and other Proud Boys who took part in the insurrection “had an official endorsement” from former President Trump and that his “arrest on federal charges has chastened, rather than emboldened, him.”
“It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement,” the memo from Chrestman’s attorneys said. “Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did.”
Chrestman — identified by his attorneys as “an army veteran and union sheet metal worker” — was arrested Feb. 11 and charged with conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The same day, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Christopher Kuehne and former Blue Springs police officer Louis Colon, also were arrested and charged with conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Felicia and Cory Konold — a brother and sister from Arizona, who claim to have been recruited into the Kansas City Proud Boys chapter by Chrestman — also were arrested in connection with the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s office requested Chrestman be detained on the grounds that he is a flight risk, may obstruct the investigation if free, and represents a danger to the community.
Chrestman’s attorneys argue that he didn’t flee after being contacted by the media in late January and again in early February regarding his participation in the riot.
Even after learning he had been identified as a rioter to the FBI, Chrestman remained at his Olathe home, which is where the FBI found and arrested him without incident.
As to possible obstruction, Chrestman’s attorneys question “what is left to obstruct?” The court documents argue that the federal government claims to have photos and video evidence, so “nothing Mr. Chrestman could do now could seriously obstruct this prosecution.”
Furthermore, Chrestman’s alleged decision to get rid of firearms in his possession after the Jan. 6 incident, which his attorneys did not admit to in the filing, would be evidence of “precisely the kind of responsible behavior this Court should encourage.”
But it’s the arguments against Chrestman as a danger to the community that are most compelling — noting that he’s not charged with a violent crime, a crime against a minor, a crime involving drugs or a crime involving weapons.
Chrestman, who was near the front of the crowd that marched on the Capitol after a Trump rally, allegedly shouted at a Capitol police officer, “You shoot and I'll take your f***ing a** out,” according to federal court documents.
He also allegedly encouraged the crowd to prevent an officer from making an arrest and helped subvert barriers law enforcement attempted to put in place to prevent the Capitol from being breached.
Chrestman’s attorneys argued that the Proud Boys’ acceptance by the Republican mainstream, including Trump’s call on national TV during a presidential debate for the group to “stand back and stand by,” amplified the belief that “these groups, who are eager to do violence in any case, have the implicit approval of the state.”
The memo also notes that Chrestman and other like-minded individuals “watched as law enforcement attacked Black Lives Matter and anti-fascism protestors, but escorted Proud Boys and their allies to safety.”
Chrestman’s attorneys argue that the five weeks since the riot have left the Proud Boys “enfeebled” and that he personally “has experienced the clarity of “perspective sometimes imparted by a federal prosecution and associated incarceration.”
The court ordered Chrestman sent back to prison Wednesday, but “will issue a detention order or release order in the next few days,” according to court documents. His next appearance for a preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 1.
Kuehne was released from custody on Feb. 12. His next appearance is Feb. 26.
Colon, who worked for the Blue Springs police from late 2003 until voluntarily resigning in the summer of 2006, also had a hearing Wednesday, but his case had not been updated in the federal court online records system.
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