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Judge grants alleged Capitol rioter's pretrial release

US Attorney for Kansas files stay of release order
William Norman Chrestman
Chrestman and Colon
Chrestman and Cory Konold
Kuehne and Chrestman at barrier
Posted at 9:05 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 22:05:32-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A federal judge granted William Chrestman’s motion for release Friday, but federal prosecutors immediately appealed the decision, leaving his pretrial freedom unsettled.

Chrestman, a 47-year-old who lives in Olathe, is one of three Kansas City-area men who was arrested Feb. 12 for alleged crimes in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas sought to keep Chrestman locked up as he awaits trial on the grounds that he’s a possibly violent danger to the community, poses a flight risk, and may obstruct justice.

“With obvious grounds for reservation, the government’s motion is respectfully denied,” U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O’Hara wrote in a 17-page opinion. “However, the defendant’s pretrial release will be subject to very stringent conditions, most notably home incarceration with electronic monitoring.”

Chrestman’s attorneys argued in a motion for his pretrial release this week that he believed he had Trump’s “permission and privilege” to storm the Capitol, where Congress was certifying Electoral College votes to make Joe Biden the next president.

O’Hara wrote that without getting “dragged into the ongoing public debate” about Trump’s culpability for the riot, he found no merit to the attorneys claim of a 14th Amendment violation.

The judge wrote that he is “far from persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Constitution provides any defense to Mr. Chrestman. ... This court believes his ultimate conviction is highly probable, with a significant prison sentence to follow.”

O’Hara ruled that his community ties, especially with his three daughters and a girlfriend; his military service from 1992-6 in the U.S. Army; and lack of a criminal history or history of drug and alcohol abuse “weighs in favor of pretrial release.”

O’hara later allowed that “this case presents a very close call.”

In addition to house arrest and electronic monitoring, Chrestman will be subject to a curfew, required to report to law enforcement, prohibited from possessing weapons and prohibited from using drugs and alcohol among other restrictions.

He also must provide a DNA sample, post a $10,000 bond and refrain from contact with the other four people charged in the case.

Chrestman is due back in court for a virtual appearance Feb. 26 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask filed an Application for Stay and Motion for Review of Chrestman’s release order later Friday.

“Respectfully, the United States contends there is no condition or combination of conditions to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant or reasonably assure the safety of the community,” Rask wrote.

The government’s motion remained pending before the court Friday night.

According to court documents, Chrestman helped lead the march from former President Trump’s rally to the Capitol.

Along the way, Chrestman allegedly threatened a U.S. Capitol Police officer and worked to prevent another person from being arrested. He also allegedly entered the Capitol and helped prop open barriers to allow others inside.

Chrestman Axe Barrie
William Norman Chrestman of Olathe was arrested Thursday for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

Chrestman faces a range of charges — 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.

Chrestman allegedly was the head of the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys — according to Felcia Konold, an Arizona woman who said he recruited her to the chapter.

Konold and her brother, Cory, both of Tucson, Arizona, also were arrested last week for alleged crimes in connection with last month’s insurrection.

Christpher Kuehne, who served 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Louis Colon, a former Blue Springs police officer, also were arrested last week.

Read O'Hara's decision to grant Chrestman's pretrial release:

Read the U.S. Attorney's request for the stay of Chrestman's release order:

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