Colorado man was "prepared for combat" in Capitol riot, judge says, ordering him to stay in jail

Posted at 12:09 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 14:16:16-05

DENVER — A Colorado federal judge on Friday ordered a suspected U.S. Capitol rioter to remain in jail, calling the Woodland Park man's actions a "fundamental attack on our democracy" and questioning whether it was an isolated incident for former President Trump's supporters, as Trump has yet to refute his false claims the election was stolen.

Robert Gieswein, 24, faces charges for allegedly assaulting a Capitol police officer during the Jan. 6 riots, which culminated after weeks of Trump lying about election fraud, including holding a rally shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol.

Gieswein's attorney, Matthew Belcher, on Friday argued that his client's presence in Washington D.C. earlier this month was an isolated incident and that Gieswein, who had no previous criminal history and turned himself in, does not pose a flight risk or public safety threat.

Belcher argued that the Capitol riots happened during a "unique time in our history."

Judge Scott Varholak pushed back on Belcher's argument.

"I'm not sure how much that unique time has abated," Varholak said, "in the sense that, obviously much of this goes around the idea the election was somehow stolen, and in support of former President Trump. Former President Trump has not said it wasn't stolen. I'm not sure that the ultimate motivation behind the action has abated."

Varholak said Gieswein was not someone who "got swept up in the moment" at the Capitol.

"He clearly traveled there prepared," Varholak said. "Prepared for combat."

Prosecutors on Friday said Gieswein was dressed in a paramilitary gear, including a reinforced vest and an Army-style helmet. Gieswein, prosecutors alleged, sprayed aerosol toward Capitol police officers, shoved a temporary bike rack against police while brandishing a baseball bat, broke windows and then climbed through a broken window, into the Capitol.

When an officer tried to take Gieswein into custody, the Coloradan — who prosecutors said had once wanted to be a police officer — resisted arrest and shoved the officer to the ground, according to evidence presented in court.

Varholak also questioned Gieswein's alleged involvement with the radical militia group known as the Three Percenters. In several photos on his Facebook profile, Gieswein flashed hand signals commonly used by the group, but Gieswein's attorney said the photos are not sufficient evidence to prove Gieswein is actively involved with the group.

Varholak said he would need more information about the Three Percenters and alleged Gieswein's involvement.

At the time of the riot, Gieswein was wearing a patch on his tactical military-style vest for Woodland Wild Dogs, a private paramilitary training group he runs, according to the affidavit.

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Varholak acknowledged that many of the rioters on Jan. 6 were possibly wrapped up by "mob mentality."

"In addition, the president at the time was telling supporters that the election was stolen," Varholak said. "Supported by members of congress. Not just listening to some fringe group on the internet — they're being told this by leaders of the country."

Still, Gieswein's alleged actions were "different," Varholak said, saying Gieswein was dressed in military gear and carried a baseball bat and aerosol spray.

"That is not somebody going to D.C. to lawfully protest," Varholak said. "That is somebody who is going for battle."

Gieswein will return to court next Friday for a preliminary hearing.

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Patrick Montgomery, of Littleton, was also arrested for his involvement in the Capitol riots. He was ordered Tuesday to be released from jail on a $5,000 unsecured bond — meaning he will not have to pay the bond up front or a portion of it and would only have to pay should he violate his conditions of release.

Klete Keller, of Colorado Springs, was released on a personal recognizance bond earlier this month after being charged in the riots.