WASHINGTON — A federal judge delayed the sentencing of Capitol rioter Robert Reeder on Wednesday, just hours after a community of online sleuths collectively known as the Sedition Hunters surfaced several new videos that allegedly show Reeder assaulting a Capitol Police officer during the Jan. 6 attack.
The videos, published at the @SeditionHunters Twitter page, were discovered about four hours before the court hearing, according to a post from the account.
“This truly is a massive undertaking,” the @SeditionHunters account posted. “Did we make it in time?”
Reeder was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday afternoon on a plea deal he reached in June, in which he’d pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. The terms of the plea deal allowed prosecutors to bring additional charges if they discovered evidence of any violent crimes that Reeder committed on Jan. 6 or beyond.
A prosecutor indicated Wednesday that the government had planned to argue for a six-month prison sentence when they received the first video, but then decided to ask for a delay in the sentencing so they could evaluate all the evidence. Reeder’s attorney agreed to the delay, as did Judge Thomas Hogan. The feds’ decision to seek a delay strongly suggests they will bring separate charges against Reeder for assaulting the officer.
The series of videos allegedly show Reeder grabbing and shoving a police officer on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as a mob storms the building spurred by former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election. The man believed to be Reeder is quickly tackled to the ground by an officer.
A HuffPost reporter attempted to show Reeder one of the clearest videos as he approached the courtroom on Wednesday. Reeder stayed silent, and his lawyer intervened. Afterward, Reeder — his face covered in a medical blue mask, much like the one that was strapped to his chin on Jan. 6 — faced a wall outside the courtroom and appeared emotional. When he entered the courtroom, he asked for tissues. When asked about the videos after the hearing, Reeder’s lawyer said he had a different interpretation of the videos, but declined to elaborate.
The person who runs the @SeditionHunters account told HuffPost in a statement that they are glad federal prosecutors and the FBI have been so willing to accept their help as they prosecute an unprecedented caseload in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.
The FBI has arrested more than 575 defendants in connection with the Capitol riot, and hundreds more arrests are in the works.
“The @SeditionHunters team are extremely grateful for all the challenging work the FBI and the DOJ are putting into each individual case and their willingness to accept the assistance from our community of researchers,” the group’s statement read. “The quick response to last minute discovery of images showing a suspected assault clearly shows the dedication by all involved.”
The Reeder case is the second time this week alone that members of the broader Sedition Hunters community have influenced the direction of an ongoing prosecution.
On Monday, online sleuths surfaced images that show Capitol defendant Samuel Lazar holding weapons he’d been banned from purchasing, images that will make it more difficult for him to secure pretrial release.
A number of key targets have also been arrested in recent days based on the work of online investigators. Last week, the FBI arrested a suspect whom sleuths had nicknamed #TunnelCommander. This week, the FBI arrested two more suspects, dubbed #CatSweat and #ThreePercentSheriff. All three were arrested in connection with the beating of police officers on the Capitol steps.
Above: A video from the state-run news channel Russia-24 allegedly shows Robert Reeder, in a red hat and blue mask, attacking a police officer at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Earlier this month, Robert Bonsib, Reeder’s lawyer, argued in court that he was simply an “accidental tourist” inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, not a violent insurrectionist.
Reeder made a “spur of the moment decision and regrettable mistake” when he attended a rally in support of Trump and then followed the MAGA mob to the Capitol, Bonsib wrote in court filings.
“Mr. Reeder is not politically active, is not and has never been a member of any right-wing or anti-government or extremist group and has, unfortunately, been publicly grouped with many others (whose) views he abhors,” Bonsib wrote.
On Tuesday, a day before the scheduled sentencing, prosecutors submitted 20 pages’ worth of messages and memes that Reeder allegedly posted to social media in the weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol, in which he expressed his belief in the baseless conspiracy theory that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election.
“Unbelievable!” Reeder wrote in one message, according to the court filings. “Almost A month-and-a-half after the election, the Democrats are still finding mysterious ballots, in there fourth attempt to overthrow the election results that have been recounted 3 times in favor of the Republicans…Democrats just can’t stop cheating and lying!”
The court filings also show Reeder belonging to right-wing Facebook groups with names like “Stop The Steal,” “Hop on The Trump Train!” and “Joe Biden Is Not My President.”
Authorities initially used facial recognition to identify Reeder as one of the Capitol rioters. (Online sleuths have similarly used the technology to generate leads.) Reeder was charged in February with four misdemeanor counts related to the attack, and accepted a plea deal in June.
According to court documents, Reeder’s lawyers provided authorities with videos he filmed showing his activities in and around the Capitol on Jan. 6.
One video shows Reeder wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat just outside the Capitol building and chanting, “Fight for Trump!”
Later in the video, Reeder admits to having gone inside the building.
“Just left the Capitol,” he says to the camera. “I was one of the last people out. I was in there for over half an hour. I got gassed several times inside the Capitol, many times outside the Capitol. Got shot with pepper balls. It was fucking nuts. We had to do… ah… battle with the police inside. It was crazy… absolutely insane.”
Seven months after their efforts began, the quick action from authorities in response to the evidence uncovered by Sedition Hunters is a boost for a community of online investigators who want to ensure that those who attempted to storm the Capitol and block a free and fair election are held accountable.
“A very very special shout out to a team of great individuals who have and are working so hard to hold [Capitol Rioters] accountable,” the @SeditionHunters account tweeted Wednesday after Reeder’s hearing was delayed. “You are valued beyond words!”
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