Opening arguments begin in trial of police officer involved in Jan. 6th riot

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The federal government laid out their argument that former Virginia police officer Thomas Robertson is guilty of six charges stemming from his role in the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday.

The defense for Robertson, fired from the Rocky Mount Police Department prior to the trial, argued his primary goal in the Capitol was to find his fellow officer.

Prosecutors used their opening statement to paint a picture of Robertson as somebody who was angry over the 2020 election results, who made those feelings clear on social media, and who made no secret that he wanted to disrupt the certification of the election.

Prosecutors also said it’s typically hard to prove that a defendant intended to commit a crime, but said Robertson’s own words make it easy in this case.

Defense attorneys tried to humanize Robertson to the jury, referring to him repeatedly as “T-J” and saying he is a father, husband and mentor.

They also argue that Robertson only entered the Capitol because he was looking for his friend, a fellow former Rocky Mount police officer Jacob Fracker, who they claim got too excited and ran into the Capitol alone.

Fracker is expected to testify against Robertson later this week. He has already taken a plea deal with the government.

The defense asked the jury to consider ignoring Robertson’s social media posts and messages which prosecutors say they will show. The defense said those posts aren’t reality and compared them to an unhappy couple posting a picture on Instagram with forced smiles.

So far, the prosecution has not mentioned that Judge Christopher Cooper revoked Robertson’s pre-trial release from jail. That release was conditional on Robertson not possessing any firearms, but the FBI received a tip that he had ordered 34 guns online. After raiding Robertson’s home, they found eight firearms and what appeared to be a partially constructed pipe bomb.

University of Maryland law professor Michael Greenberger said, the prosecution is allowed to bring that to the jury’s attention, it could completely swing the case.

“If that can get in front of the jury, it’s going to be very very hard on this defendant, but technically speaking, I think there’s a very strong argument that that is irrelevant for the charges that he’s being tried for,” Greenberger said. “And that is what did he do on January 6.”

It is not yet clear if Judge Cooper is allowing the gun possession to be mentioned.

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