Insurrection losing steam? For two years the term “January 6th” or J6 has been a scary boogie man. The riot at the Capitol was brand-named the “Insurrection.” The poster child was Jacob Chansley, aka Buffalo Helmet Guy aka QAnon Shaman. Lock him up! Well, the Feds just let the Buffalo Guy roam.
Why release him? “Just routine,” the Feds say. However, this immediately follows the dump of J6 footage of the Capitol that day, showing Chansley—Shaman Guy—being peacefully admitted to the Capitol by the Capitol Police, and the police showing him around. OOPS!
Now here’s the important part. Until the new GOP House leadership released the videos, and Tucker Carlson broadcast them on his show, no one had seen this stuff before—except the House Democrat staffers, prosecutors, and Capitol police. We the public hadn’t seen it. More importantly, Shaman Guy Chansley’s defense lawyer hadn’t seen it. DOUBLE OOPS!
What we have here is what’s called “exculpatory evidence.” That means evidence tending to prove a defendant innocent. It’s a bedrock rule of American criminal law that the prosecuting attorney MUST turn over to the defense all exculpatory evidence. Period. Failure to do so—withholding of exculpatory evidence from the defense–is textbook prosecutorial misconduct.
Now whether the footage completely exonerates Shaman Guy isn’t the key here. The footage of the Capitol Police letting him in, passing his prop spear, and conducting him through the halls does make the ‘trespassing’ charge iffy. His peaceful and lawful entry, and friendly stroll with the police colors the other stuff he did. Sitting on the Rostrum in the President of the Senate’s chair? Naughty, but not criminal.
The point is that is evidence that undercuts the prosecution’s case. The withholding of this evidence from defense counsel is dirty pool. Concealing exculpatory evidence is the act of a crooked DA, a corrupt prosecutor, deserving of Bar sanction and possible criminal charges itself. Certainly the defense gets a quick shot at appeal and the prosecutor gets a quick trip to a very unpleasant hearing. Disbarment may be the least of his worries.
Shaman Guy spent about two years in jail. He has a very good case for money damages against the Capitol Police, House of Reps, and the Department of Justice. A very good case means lots of money, meaning a good lawyer will pursue. And Shaman Guy isn’t the only one who’s been jailed and prosecuted with evidence withheld. These also have lawyers who will be asking questions, filing motions and eventually lawsuits. I’d expect hefty settlements—paid for with our tax dollars, of course! But we should expect to discover names of the folks who made the calls and performed the acts of misconduct.
Prosecution of the J6 defendants was handled by the US district Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The video tapes were in the hands of the Capitol police who report to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Somebody made the decision to withhold the exculpatory evidence, and others carried out the act. They can be identified and held accountable, and I’d hope the GOP House gets right on this.
In addition, a good case can be made for personal liability–as opposed to the government’s being liable, due to the clear misconduct negating any Sovereign Immunity defense. Multi-millionaire Pelosi is very collectible. As are other individuals. A good plaintiff’s lawyer can have a field day, and probably will. Shaman Guy may end up rich enough to build his own backyard Senate Chamber, and sit in the big chair whenever he wants.
But here’s the most troubling thing: everyone on the prosecution side, from Pelosi to the Capitol Police, to the Federal DA, is guilty of serious textbook prosecutorial misconduct. The DC district Attorney’s office Is thus proven to be corrupt and crooked. The chain of command and accountability goes all the way up to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
When law enforcement betrays its trust, it forfeits credibility with the public. Until a thorough investigation and exposure of whoever participated in the withholding of this exculpatory evidence occurs, and the dirty prosecutors are punished, no one should have any confidence in the justice system. And that includes locally. Are the Federal prosecutors in your town crooked? The US Justice Department has shown itself dirty and rotten; how deep does that rot go? Maybe this Administration doesn’t want to know, but the longer dirty cops and lawyers skate, the less the US citizens are likely to believe we have a working justice system at all.
And if a partisan prosecutor uses the power of the criminal law to selectively go after political opponents—say, hypothetically: Donald Trump in New York—then all hell can break loose like a herd of stampeding buffalo.