Maine suspect in Capitol riot held without bail

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:37 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C., D.C - After 63 days in custody, Kyle Fitzsimons, 37, the only Maine resident criminally charged in the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, learned today he will be detained pending trial.

“You do represent a danger to the community were you to be released,” ruled Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey toward the end of the 45-minute hearing in Washington federal court.

The bail hearing extended into a second day Wednesday because Harvey had requested copies of videos behind screenshots published in the FBI’s criminal complaint and subsequent 10-count indictment against Fitzsimons, including two felony counts of inflicting bodily injury on police officers, which carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors allege the videos show Fitzsimons violently breaching the building and assaulting officers, and Harvey seemed to agree.

“You lunged for the officer, you grabbed him, you pulled him,” Harvey said to Fitzsimons, and then after the officer had struck him in the head with a baton, “You got up and went right back; you lunged in again.”

Fitzsimons did not speak during Wednesday’s hearing except to say, “Good afternoon,” confirming his attendance by video hookup from jail.

His defense attorney, Greg Hunter, disputed the government’s narrative of the videos – one from a Capitol surveillance camera and the other from a body-worn police officer camera.

“He finds himself between the police and the front of the crowd, and is he reaching his hands out to steady himself as he’s being pushed from behind?” Hunter said. “As far as showing any intent, I don’t know if audio would be helpful.”

Prosecutors disputed the notion that Fitzsimons’ physical contact with officers was his merely trying to balance himself in the melee, arguing instead that he charged officers and tried to hurt them.

“And pushes against them by lowering his head and pushes through the line of officers with his shoulder,” Assistant United States Attorney Puja Batia told the court. “This is not an act of a person trying to steady himself; this is an act of a person who is relentless in trying to break a police line and continue his violence.”

“The government’s got a very strong case,” Harvey said, “And why you represent a danger—strong evidence of your own violence.”

Harvey also said he was troubled by Fitzsimons’ past run-ins with Maine lawmakers, calling that past conduct “menacing, intimidating.”

“I would not want to go to a protest you were at,” Harvey said.

Prosecutors also provided Harvey the video of a Jan. 7 meeting of the board of supervisors in Lebanon, Maine, where Fitzsimons lived; he called in and boasted of his support for former President Donald Trump and his presence at the rally before it turned violent.

The bail hearing revealed that Fitzsimons, who believed the presidential election had been stolen from former President Donald Trump, called both of Maine’s U.S. House members – Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden -- to urge them not to verify the electoral college results that deemed Joe Biden the winner.

The calls to Pingree’s office were disclosed on a March 18 court filing.

The call to Golden’s office, recorded by a voice mail system, occurred on December 20, 2020.

“He certainly sounds angry,” defense attorney Hunter said of the message, “But he’s not doing anything in that phone call that almost half of Congress did,” referring to the 147 House Republicans who voted to overturn the election results.

Judge Harvey said there were mitigating factors in favor of pretrial release – that Fitzsimons effectively has no criminal record, other than a 2008 conviction for driving under the influence and a 2016 conviction for driving an unregistered motor vehicle.

Harvey said Fitzsimons is not a member of a radical anti-government militia group like Oath Keepers, and that there is no evidence of his planning for violence, such as bringing tactical gear or weapons to Washington.

Harvey also said he did not regard Fitzsimons as a flight risk because he does have family members willing to take him in.

Defense attorney Hunter cited relatives in Maine and an aunt in New Jersey and challenged the portrayal that Fitzsimons might be estranged from his wife and daughter or whether that was anybody else’s business.

In their brief arguing for detention, prosecutors disclosed that during a review of Fitzsimons’ cell phone, investigators discovered a Jan. 5 text message from his wife, Justine, saying: “[a]fter this trip you need to do some serious decision making. If your [sic] not going to change, I don’t want anything to do with you. This is it kyle, it’s me and holly or politics…Chose [sic] is yours.”

When pressed by the magistrate, AUSA Batia said Fitzsimons has not yet received a plea offer.

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