Olathe Proud Boy William “Billy” Chrestman will remain in jail pending trial on charges related to his alleged involvement in the Capitol uprising, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly denied Chrestman’s request for release, upholding a previous judge’s ruling that he was a danger to the community. Olathe’s man has been in jail since federal agents arrested him on February 11.
Kelly reviewed a laundry list of Chrestman’s alleged actions on the day of the riot which the judge said were captured by dozens of photos and videos. The actions, Kelly said, included Chrestman wielding an ax handle, encouraging the crowd to storm the Capitol and confronting law enforcement, telling an officer that “You shoot and I fuck your ass!” “
“In a world where January 6 has passed but the idea in our politics that the 2020 presidential election has been stolen and is still relevant, these statements do not reflect someone for whom the fight is over. .. is focused on the future and for whom the fight continues, ”said Kelly.
The judge also said that Chrestman’s actions after the riot indicated that he had shown no remorse and had taken steps to obstruct the evidence. When authorities subsequently searched his home, Kelly said, they did not find the tactical equipment, gas mask or ax handle with which Chrestman was seen on January 6, nor a rifle pictured in Chrestman’s social media posts. And her cell phone was found hidden in a dresser drawer in her young daughter’s bedroom.
“Mr. Chrestman was a lot more – a lot, a lot more – than someone who just encouraged violence or walked into the Capitol after others led the way,” Kelly said.
The move came after Chrestman and five others accused of being part of a Kansas City-based Proud Boys group who conspired to storm the Capitol appeared in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week. last by video and phone.
the The Proud Boys were at the forefront of the federal investigation into the January 6 insurgency. Authorities have arrested more than two dozen Proud Boys from across the country, including several in leadership positions, on charges ranging from disorderly conduct and conspiracy to assaulting a federal officer.
Chrestman was indicted on February 26 along with Christopher Kuehne of Olathe, Louis Enrique Colon of Blue Springs, Ryan Keith Ashlock of Gardner and siblings Cory and Felicia Konold of Arizona on charges of conspiracy and other offenses related to the riot.
Chrestman, an unemployed union sheet metal worker, was also charged with threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and carry a wooden ax handle while in the Capitol building and on the grounds.
All except Chrestman have been released on personal bail pending trial. A federal judge in Washington, DC, in February overturned a Kansas judge’s decision to release Chrestman and ordered that he be held without bail until his trial. Prosecutors allege Chrestman was a key player in the riot.
At last week’s hearing, a federal prosecutor strongly opposed Chrestman’s release.
Assistant United States Attorney Christoper Berridge referred to a transcript of a self-recorded phone call that prosecutors said Chrestman made shortly after storming the Capitol in which he described the riot and said: “I started a revolution”. The government included the transcript in its motion opposing Chrestman’s release.
According to the transcript, Chrestman also said that “we stormed the Capitol, we rushed, we took this house back,” adding, “I and two others were the first to go through the door.”
“This is a recorded call that Mr. Chrestman himself recorded after the incident, explaining how he and those present were the first to walk through the door; they led everyone, ”Berridge told the judge. “So we’re talking about Mr. Chrestman admitting in his own way that he was a key figure and actually leading the attack on Capitol Hill.”
Berridge said Chrestman remains a threat to the community.
“It’s something that is still in the Zeitgeist, still very much in the media and surrounded by the public, this idea that this election was fraudulent or stolen,” Berridge said. He added that there was even more evidence now to suggest that Chrestman was a “threat to the public that goes forward, is still a danger to the community.”
“And I’ll point out as well,” Berridge said, “that Mr. Chrestman was actually there and had an ax handle, was actually threatening law enforcement.”
But Chrestman’s attorney Peter Cooper argued the military veteran posed no security risk and said prosecutors had no evidence he was part of an organized effort to rape Capitol.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Chrestman assaulted anyone, was fighting with anyone that day,” Cooper said. “… The court is actually arguing that yes, there were a lot of things that happened that day, there were a lot of people who broke things and assaulted people.” But not this particular person.
“We have nothing the government can refer to after January 6 to say that is why this person is a danger to his community.”
Cooper said new issues have arisen since Chrestman was first held without bail. Among them, Cooper said: Chrestman was not getting the opiates he needed for the chronic back pain he suffered from a work-related accident, and his family was at risk of being evicted from his home because of ‘he was unable to meet his financial obligations.
“We are not asking for the world here. We are not asking that Mr. Chrestman be the subject of a personal engagement, ”said Cooper. “We understand that is just not a reasonable thing, given the nature of where we are.”
But Cooper said the court could release Chrestman under certain conditions, such as requiring electronic surveillance or a ban on using social media.
Berridge said Chrestman’s medical issues could be addressed in a separate motion.
“It does not affect his danger to the community,” he said. “He had these conditions while he was doing everything he did on January 6. That didn’t stop him from doing these things.”
Letting Chrestman out into the community so he can get medical treatment doesn’t lessen the danger to the community, Berridge said: “It puts him in exactly the same position he was before Jan.6 or during Jan.6. . “
Also at last week’s hearing, Berridge told the judge the government was working on possible pre-trial negotiations with some of the defendants.
“I have spoken to various attorneys in the case in regards to the preliminary negotiations which would potentially lead to pre-trial arrangements,” Berridge said, adding that “these are still very nascent at this point.”
“Having said that, I think they’re positive in the sense that they’re just not an outright ‘no’ or anything like that,” he said. “So we are working on these talks. I expect it will take at least a few weeks to have these discussions and then formalize what we want to do moving forward. “
The next court appearances are scheduled for August 6.
JR Hobbs, the Kansas City attorney representing Colon, said his client was prepared to try and work with prosecutors to resolve his case.
“I will inform the court that we are engaged in periodic discussions with Mr. Berridge, both on the progress of the discovery and the potential next steps towards a possible resolution,” Hobbs said.