No verdict yet in bench trial of Maine resident Kyle Fitzsimons for Jan. 6. Capitol riot

Judge promises verdict with written opinion after Labor Day
Judge promises verdict with written opinion after Labor Day
Published: Aug. 20, 2022 at 7:41 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WMTW) - The Kyle Fitzsimons trial ended on Friday, except the verdict won’t come for a couple weeks.

After three days of testimony and evidence, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras listened to three hours of closing arguments on Friday, with prosecutors describing Fitzsimons as part of a violent mob that obstructed Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win over Donald Trump with violence.

“The peaceful transfer of power could not take place, just as the defendant wanted,” Assistant United States Attorney Michael Gordon told the judge. “He’s proud of what the mob did.”

Contreras, who heard the case alone after Fitzsimons waived his right to a jury trial, announced he plans to issue his verdict “after Labor Day,” following a few forthcoming rulings that could affect some of the 11 counts.

Prosecutors argued they proved them all, six of them felonies for obstructing an official proceeding, causing civil disorder, and four charges of assaulting police officers.

The trial’s key evidence was time-stamped police body camera and building surveillance videos.

In one four-minute stretch, shortly after four o’clock in the afternoon of January 6, 2021, all the fighting that led to Fitzsimons’ arrest occurred -- allegedly snapping a gas mask off one officer as he was exposed to tear gas, throwing an unstrung wooden bow like a spear at another officer, and dragging down a third officer by his riot shield and shoulder strap.

All three officers testified -- Metropolitan Police Department Officers Phuson Nguyen and Sarah Beaver and Capitol Police Sargent Aquilino Gonell – and two said they were injured by Fitzsimons’ actions.

Fitzsimons “tried to achieve his political goal with his fists,” AUSA Gordon told the court. It was “a four-hour medieval battle, and the defendant was persistent combatant.”

“Kyle Fitzsimons would like the world to believe he is a patriot,” Gordon said. “But there was nothing patriotic about the defendant’s actions that day. There is nothing patriotic about attacking law enforcement.”

The fighting occurred at the tunnel-like entrance on the western terrace of the Capitol, where a phalanx of officers held the line for hours, as other entrances were breached.

“He attacked them, he punched them, and he tried to hurt them,” Gordon said of the Fitzsimons. “But most of all, he tried to get passed them.”

Fitzsimons did not enter the building.

Fitzsimons’ defense attorney tried poking holes in the government’s case, especially the assault charges that rely on frenetic video both sides analyzed frame by frame.

“The government has not met its burden beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Natasha Taylor-Smith, a federal public defender. “They failed to meet their burden on a number of these counts.”

She argued that Fitzsimons, who drove alone from Maine to Washington, merely wanted to attend the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally and show support for members of Congress who would object to election certification – that he had “a different mindset” than rioters who brought guns, knives, zip ties, or built gallows, or conspired in advance to storm the Capitol.

Taylor-Smith said, “The evidence shows that he intended to attend the rally, they he didn’t take any weapons, that when he arrived at the Capitol, he didn’t collaborate or consort with anybody.”

Prosecutors pointed to Fitzsimons’ communications before and after the riot – a Facebook post, a voice mail left for a congressman, a debrief with a local town meeting – to underscore Fitzsimons’s motive – that he felt the 2020 election meant “the death of democracy.”

“What Kyle Fitzsimons did on Jan. 6 was criminal,” Gordon said. “And he must be held accountable.”