Many Protesters Likely Face Convictions from Social Media Postings
WASHINGTON, D.C. – There is a certain irony in the antics of many of the people who participated in the Capital Hill Riots on January 6, 2021. That irony is the amount of video, the number of selfies, and the scope of media that recorded the events.
That is making it easier for the authorities to track down and arrest suspect in the riot.
Digital records including email, text messages, and postings online on Social Media and other online forums are likely to make convictions easier for the authorities as well.
Some of that irony comes as supporters of President Trump are angered over how social media companies like Twitter simply banned their man from the platform.
Some have complained that their Constitutional Rights under the First Amendment have been infringed.
They have not. Social media companies are not a part of what the wording of the First Amendment covers.
Free speech protection as protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution applies only to the government censoring speech.
It doesn’t impact private companies who are allowed to decide the types of speech they allow on their platforms. Companies can and do have their own standards and policies that users must follow.
It is no different than in your home. You can decide what is, or is not allowed in terms of all things legal.
Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law states, “It’s a common mistake people make in understanding First Amendment protections. There is no constitutional right to tweet or post on Facebook.”
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
As the FBI continue to make arrests, 100 overall so far, many of the people who were prominent during the riots have been arrested.
That includes Jacob Chansley, the man in the cow horns and with his face painted has been arrested. The man seen carrying the podium from House Speaker’s office has been arrested.
Texas Man Arrested after Threats and Actions on Capital Hill
Troy Anthony Smocks, 58, of Dallas, Texas, was charged by criminal complaint with knowingly and willfully transmitting threats in interstate commerce, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c). He will make an initial appearance this afternoon in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
The affidavit in support of criminal complaint alleges that Smocks traveled to the Washington, D.C., area on January 5, 2021, the day before the illegal rioting. Smocks used a Parler social media account under the name “ColonelTPerez” or “@Colonel007,” to post threats on January 6 and 7 regarding the riots. The threats included that he and others would return to the U.S. Capitol on January 19, 2021, carrying weapons and massing in numbers so large that no army could match them. Smocks threatened that he and others would “hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are,” specifically threatening “RINOS, Dems, and Tech Execs.” The threats issued by Smocks were viewed by other social media users tens of thousands of times.
A California man was arrested and charged yesterday in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.
Capital Hill Window Smasher Arrested
Hunter Allen Ehmke, 20, of Glendora, California, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1521(c)(2); one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, in violation of Title 40, United States Code, Section 5104(e)(2); and one count of destruction of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1361. The defendant was arrested outside of Los Angeles, and made his initial appearance yesterday before Magistrate Judge John E. McDermott of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
The affidavit in support of criminal complaint alleges that during the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Ehmke jumped onto a window ledge and smashed several panes out of a six-pane window that led to an office space inside the Capitol. Officers with the United States Capitol Police were able to apprehend Ehmke on scene. While the officers were in the process of placing Ehmke under arrest, the large crowd became very aggressive and menacing towards the officers and, faced with being outnumbered by a threatening crowd and having no realistic way to make a safe arrest, the officers made the decision to release the defendant, ordering him to leave the Capitol grounds. The Architect of the Capitol estimated the damage to the window in excess of $2,400.
“Spaz” Arrested in New York
A New York State man was taken into custody and charged today with unlawful entry, destruction of government property and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Dominic Pezzola, 43, also known as “Spaz” and “Spazzo,” of Rochester, New York, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2); one count of destruction of government property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1361; and one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section1752(a). Following a hearing in the Western District of New York, Pezzola was ordered detained.
The affidavit in support of criminal complaint alleges that Pezzola unlawfully gained entry to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, by breaking a window in the U.S. Capitol with a U.S. Capitol Police shield, as an individual in the crowd yelled “Go Go Go,” before entering the Capitol building.
The affidavit also alleges that a video posted from inside the Capitol shows Pezzola smoking a cigar inside the building. In that video, Pezzola can be heard saying words to the effect of, “Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is f***ing awesome. I knew we could take this mother***er over [if we] just tried hard enough.”
The affidavit alleges that Pezzola was photographed in December, 2020, at rallies in Washington, D.C., that included individuals wearing clothing consistent with the “Proud Boys.”
At some point after the incident at the Capitol had ended, the affidavit in support of criminal complaint alleges, Pezzola bragged about breaking the windows to the Capitol with a Capitol Police shield. The affidavit also alleges that Pezzola and others stated that they would have killed anyone they got their hands on, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Michael Pence. The affidavit alleges that, in the days after the event, members of the group said that the group would return to Washington, D.C., and kill every single “m-fer” they could.
A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct for purposes of establishing probable cause, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office, Albany Field Office, and Washington Field Office.
The ATF and FBI continue to urge the public to report suspected use of explosive devices, or violent, destructive acts associated with the recent unrest. Anyone with information can call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), email ATFTips@atf.gov or submit information anonymously via ReportIt.com.