Zoe Tillman Profile picture
Senior reporter @BuzzFeedNews covering courts, justice, and the intersection of law and politics. zoe.tillman@buzzfeed.com
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4 Aug
Hello from Judge Amit Mehta's virtual courtroom, where a plea hearing is about to begin in the case of Jan. 6 defendant John Lolos — he was arrested after getting flagged by police for his disruptive behavior on a flight out of DC two days later -->
Lolos is pleading guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor with a max sentence of 6 mos in jail — this is the most common charge we've seen in plea deals so far, and the other three misdemeanors he's charged with will be dropped
Lolos tells Mehta that he can pay the restitution in full now, so he doesn't agree with a part of the deal that requires him to submit info about his finances to the US attorney's office — prosecutor says that's not negotiable, and Lolos says he'll continue with the plea
Read 14 tweets
4 Aug
Hello from Judge Thomas Hogan's virtual courtroom, where Jan. 6 defendants Joshua and Jessica Bustle are due to the sentenced shortly after pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor. Previously on those pleas: buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
The govt is asking for one month of home confinement for Joshua Bustle (s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2103…) and three months of home confinement for Jessica Bustle (s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2103…), citing her "incendiary" language about what happened ImageImageImageImage
Hogan says there shouldn't be a presumption of probation as the punishment in these misdemeanor-only cases related to the Capitol riots, so he tasks the defense with explaining why the Bustles shouldn't get any jail time
Read 31 tweets
4 Aug
Hello from Judge Amy Berman Jackson's virtual courtroom, where a plea hearing is about to get underway in the case of Jan. 6 defendant Karl Dresch. More here -->
Catching up on filings from yesterday in the meantime, three more plea hearings were added to the calendar for Jan. 6 defendants:
- Scott Fairlamb, which is notable because we haven't had pleas yet in cases involving people charged with assaulting police: s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2046… ImageImageImageImage
- Glenn Croy, which is another misdemeanor-only case (his codefendant Terry Lindsey's case remains pending as of now): s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2048… ImageImageImage
Read 23 tweets
3 Aug
The first substantive challenge to the Jan. 6 prosecutions so far is the argument that the feds overreached in bringing a felony count for obstructing an official proceeding (charged in 250+ cases). @emptywheel has a great thread going on arguments today:
In advance of today's hearing, DOJ filed a doc listing the seven cases where defendants have raised a similar challenge to the obstruction charge (note that some of these involve multiple defendants): s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2103…
Obstruction of an official proceeding is, for many defendants, the only felony and the most serious charge they're facing — it carries a max sentence of up to 20 years. It's what we saw in the case of Paul Hodgkins, the first felony plea to face sentencing buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Read 5 tweets
2 Aug
FBI agents have been using photos of female support staff as part of sexual predator sting ops, and in at least one case an agent didn't get permission/didn't document how/where they used photos — the inspector gen's office has concerns about this oig.justice.gov/sites/default/…
"The OIG believes that this conduct poses potential adverse consequences for non-UCE/OCE employees participating in UC operations, including potentially placing them in danger of becoming the victims of criminal offenses."
The IG's office noted the FBI doesn't have specific policies about using photos of female support staff in sexual predator stings who aren't certified as undercover employees, and the FBI says they will look into that
Read 4 tweets
29 Jul
New: Capitol rioter Jack Griffith, who entered a guilty plea this morning, has been posting on Facebook promoting clips from a video game he says he's building that features a gun-toting Donald Trump and is rife with right-wing conspiracy theories buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Griffith's videos and posts underscore that the criminal prosecutions aren't deterring the conspiracy theories and pro-Trump fervor that motivated the mob on Jan. 6. Asked about the posts, his lawyer said they were "political irony" buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Griffith also posted a music video on YouTube about trying to get rich and how he has a semi-automatic weapon "but I hope to god I don’t have to use that." His lawyer says it's a "stupid song" and he has no guns (his release conditions say no illegal guns)
buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Read 5 tweets
29 Jul
Good morning from Chief Judge Beryl Howell's virtual courtroom, where Jan. 6 defendant Jack Griffith is set to enter a guilty plea. More on Griffith -->
Griffith is pleading guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol, which is a misdemeanor carrying a max sentence of 6 mos in jail — note that the indictment lists a felony up top for obstructing Congress, but that's only for his co-def Matthew Bledsoe
Griffith is represented by H. Heather Shaner. Shaner's other clients include Anna Morgan-Lloyd, who you may recall was assigned by Shaner to read/watch content about racism and antisemitism and submitted reports pre-sentencing. @ryanjreilly on that: huffpost.com/entry/capitol-…
Read 12 tweets
28 Jul
A court loss this morning for Trump et al. — the 2nd Circuit ruled he and his co. and his family can't force a lawsuit into arbitration that accuses them of fraud in promoting a multi-level marketing company s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…
ACN, the MLM company, was sued by people who claimed they were duped into investing. Trump had been a spox for ACN before becoming president. The plaintiffs said Trump's endorsement convinced them to invest, but ACN didn't tell them Trump was being paid for that endorsement...
...fast forward, aggrieved investors sue ACN and Trump. Trump tried to invoke an arbitration clause in the contract investors signed with ACN, but the district judge (and now 2nd Circuit) said nope b/c a big part of the case is that customers didn't know Trump was in biz with ACN
Read 4 tweets
27 Jul
In response to Rep. Mo Brooks seeking to have the US govt substituted as a defendant in Rep. Swalwell's Jan. 6 lawsuit — arguing he was acting within scope of employment — House GC says it won't participate, and disputes Brooks' theory to DOJ s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…
DOJ is also due to respond to Brooks' motion today, but there's no time deadline, so it could come in whenever tonight
Just in: DOJ won't certify that Rep. Mo Brooks was acting within the scope of his employment when he made the statements that got him sued by Rep. Swalwell for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 riots.

So, long story short, he's on his own: s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…
Read 7 tweets
27 Jul
As Congress kicks off its Jan. 6 investigation, the steady drip, drip, drip of details about what happened on the ground that day from the 500+ criminal cases continues buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
As police officers testified on the Hill today and shared harrowing accounts of violence:
- two defendants pleaded guilty
- one defendant charged with assaulting police was ordered to stay in jail
- new charges were unsealed in another assault case buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Bouncing between the House hearing and court action in Jan. 6 cases today, it was striking to see how the macro-level focus of the former dovetailed with the micro-level focus of the latter
buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Read 6 tweets
27 Jul
Switching from the Jan. 6 hearing to a plea hearing for two Jan. 6 defendants, Lori and Thomas Vinson. Could hear someone else on the line listening to Officer Hodges testify as the line gets muted/unmuted before the hearing starts
This is before Judge Reggie Walton. Here's the charging docs for the Vinsons: s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2049…

Feds note Lori Vinson told an interviewer: "people have asked are you sorry that you done that, absolutely I am not, I am not sorry for that, I would do it again tomorrow"
A common theme we've seen in misdemeanor cases like the Vinsons is this idea that they didn't encounter police telling them they couldn't go inside the Capitol. The officers appearing before Congress now are describing how they were outnumbered/overwhelmed by the violent mob
Read 17 tweets
27 Jul
Follow @kadiagoba for updates on the first hearing today held by the Jan. 6 select committee
@kadiagoba One of the most oft-played videos from Jan. 6 shows Officer Daniel Hodges screaming as he's pinned between a door and rioters with shields — that starts at around the 1:46 mark in this clipped exhibit from one of the prosecutions
@kadiagoba Here's an annotated video exhibit that prosecutors say shows the mob assaulting Officer Michael Fanone, and specifically defendant Thomas Sibick grabbing for the officer's badge and radio
Read 8 tweets
26 Jul
Julian Khater, one of two men charged with conspiring to assault Officer Brian Sicknick at the Capitol with a chemical spray, will remain in jail — the DC Circuit rejected his appeal of a judge's detention order. No ruling yet in co-def George Tanios' case s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…
Panel that upheld pretrial detention for Khater features newly confirmed DC Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Circuit found the district judge made the required "individualized assessment of future dangerousness" and that detention was reasonable here given that Khater is charged with actual violence at the Capitol — "coolly walked up to police officers and assaulted them, twice"
Read 4 tweets
23 Jul
Hello from Judge James Boasberg's virtual courtroom, where the first of two plea hearings on the calendar today in the Jan. 6 cases is underway. First up is Derek Jancart: s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2049…

A tipster reported his Facebook post w/ photo and caption, "We're in." Image
Jancart is a misdemeanor-only case, he's pleading guilty to Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building, which has a max sentence of 6 mos in jail (same penalty as the other misdemeanor other defs have pleaded to, Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building)
Boasberg says that Jancart's plea deal is wired to Erik Rau, who is scheduled to enter a guilty plea later today — the two men entered the Capitol together, per charging docs in Rau's case s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2099… Image
Read 12 tweets
22 Jul
Hello from Judge James Boasberg's virtual courtroom, where a plea hearing is set to begin soon for Jan. 6 defendant Andrew Bennett — this is a misdemeanor-only case, he was wearing a Proud Boys hat and live-streamed from the Capitol
Bennett is pleading guilty to the same misdemeanor count we've seen in nearly all of the misdemeanor-only cases so far, Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building, which has a max sentence of 6 mos in jail
Boasberg has Bennett confirm the facts he's pleading guilty to, including that although his live stream videos recorded him admonishing others to not destroy property, he still was part of the mob that illegally went into the Capitol
Read 7 tweets
21 Jul
Nearly four years to the day after I filed FOIA requests about then-Utah US atty John Huber, a response (note that it's dated July 20, but arrived today): s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…

Nothing earth-shattering, sharing as just example #497,325 of how wildly slow this process can be
You may recall Huber as one of the Obama-era US attorneys who submitted his resignation at the request of Jeff Sessions, but then was allowed to stay. I filed this request + another shortly after he appeared at the White House re: immigration legislation justice.gov/opa/pr/stateme…
Huber was then appointed by Sessions to investigate how the FBI had handled various Clinton-related probes, but that fizzled out: washingtonpost.com/national-secur…
Read 5 tweets
20 Jul
A DC federal magistrate judge just ordered Jan. 6 defendant Robert Morss to stay in jail as his case goes forward. Morss "didn't stumble into the violence, he planned for it," MJ G. Michael Harvey says. More on the charges against Morss: s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2088… Image
In advance of this hearing, DOJ released videos they cited in arguing for detention. Not going to thread all of them, but here are a bunch — in these videos, Morss is usually ID'd with an arrow or box. At the end of this one, he's seen allegedly trying to grab an officer's baton
In this one, the govt IDs Morss with a red box as he hangs back for a bit, as other people berate the officers. At the 1:05 mark, the person ID'd as Morss appears to lunge at the metal barrier
Read 6 tweets
20 Jul
Hello from Judge Amit Mehta's virtual courtroom, where Jan. 6 defendant Caleb Berry will be entering a guilty plea in connection with the Oath Keepers conspiracy case. Previously on the charges unsealed this morning:
As noted earlier per the motion the govt filed to keep Caleb Berry's case sealed until today, the judge is going over the fact that Berry has agreed to cooperate with the government
Caleb Berry is facing 51-63 months in prison, per his estimated sentencing guidelines at this stage of his case, the judge says — that's the same range facing Mark Grods, who also pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case
Read 7 tweets
20 Jul
Latest videos released by DOJ from Jan. 6 are from the case of defendant Jeffrey McKellop — McKellop was indicted on multiple counts of assaulting police officers, and prosecutors cited these videos in successfully arguing to keep him in jail pending trial
Here's the government's brief, which explains where the govt identified McKellop in each of these videos: s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2051…
Exhibit 2 is where the feds say you can see McKellop lunging at officers before he's hit with a chemical spray
Read 5 tweets
20 Jul
New: Another plea deal was just unsealed in the Jan. 6 Oath Keepers conspiracy case — Caleb Berry will be pleading guilty today to conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…
This is the second Oath Keepers plea deal to involve a defendant confirming the group arranged to stash guns at a hotel in Virginia. Berry will also admit to being part of the "stack" that went into the Capitol

Previously: buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetil…
Berry was formally charged and on track to plead guilty as of July 9, but the feds asked to keep the case sealed until this morning to give him time to cooperate s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2101…
Read 4 tweets
19 Jul
Hello from the DC federal courthouse, where Jan. 6 defendant Paul Hodgkins is due to be sentenced at 10. This is the first sentencing for a felony plea deal – he's arguing for no time behind bars, the govt is asking for 18 mos. Stay tuned.
Twist: There's a long line to get into the courthouse (nature is healing!), so there's a chance I may need to dial in for the beginning of the Hodgkins sentencing
Made it into the courthouse, the Hodgkins sentencing hearing has just started (full disclosure: I'm in the media room with a video feed, not the courtroom). Hodgkins is sitting at the defense table in a suit, Judge Randolph Moss has taken the bench
Read 45 tweets