Philly DA seeks contempt charge for Vets for Trump cofounder

June 13, 2022 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia prosecutors asked a judge on Monday to hold a Virginia man in contempt of court over video that shows him meeting with top leaders of two-far right extremist groups in Washington D.C. the day before the Jan. 6 riot.

The request from Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in the case against 43-year-old Joshua Macias comes after the House committee investigating the insurrection put a spotlight on the Jan. 5 underground garage meeting between the leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the Capitol attack.

Macias was arrested on weapons and elections law charges in November 2020 after he drove to the Pennsylvania Convention Center where votes were being counted with guns and ammunition. He was out on bail on Jan. 6.

Macias, the co-founder of the group Vets for Trump, hasn’t been charged in the Capitol riot. But Philadelphia prosecutors say his presence at the meeting of the extremist leaders the day before indicates he had a much more prominent role in the insurrection than they had previously realized. Enrique Tarrio, the former Proud Boys chairman, and Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers leader, have both been charged with plotting with other extremists to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

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“We need to radically reconsider whether Joshua Macias is a mid-sized fish or a shark. I believe he is a shark,” Krasner said. “He is already up for violations of conditions of bail this week. But this is a startling revelation.”

Attorney William J. Brennan, who represents Macias, declined to comment on the new filing Monday, but said he planned to continue to try the case in court rather than in the media. A phone message left for co-counsel in the case was not returned Monday.

The Philadelphia filing comes as the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has made a point to highlight the secretive parking garage meeting mentioned in federal indictments and raises further questions about how many people may have known about what the far-right extremist groups were planning to carry out the next day.

Publicly released video of the meeting between Rhodes and Tarrio doesn’t reveal much about their discussion. A documentary filmmaker — who was filming Tarrio and testified at last week’s House committee hearing — recorded part of the meeting, but Tarrio and others motioned for him to stop.

Federal prosecutors have said only that one of the meeting’s participants “referenced the Capitol,” but no other details about what the two extremist group leaders discussed have been revealed in the criminal cases or House committee hearings.

Federal prosecutors argued in a court filing last month that Tarrio’s decision to meet with Rhodes demonstrates that he “remained engaged in planning for Jan. 6” even after his Jan. 4 arrest on charges that he vandalized a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a protest in December 2020.

Macias was a scheduled speaker outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, using what prosecutors said was the same language that the Oath Keepers had been spreading, including saying that Vice President Pence was a traitor who had betrayed the country.

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Macias was arrested alongside Antonio LaMotta, 63, early on Nov. 5, 2020, after Philadelphia police officers acting on a tip from the FBI, stopped the men near the convention center.

Authorities said they parked a Hummer a few blocks away that was adorned with QAnon stickers and contained an AR-style rifle, more than 100 rounds of ammunition, a sword and lock-picking tools. LaMotta was carrying an unlicensed firearm, and Macias was carrying a firearm licensed in Virginia, authorities said.

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Prosecutors had asked that the two be held without bail, and have characterized the incident as a mass shooting that almost happened. A judge set bail at $750,000, with a 10% bond.

Prosecutors filed a motion to revoke that bail arguing both men had violated the conditions of their release by attending the Jan. 6 rally and by Macias posting support for a pro-Trump candidate. That candidate was also noted to be at the Jan. 5 parking garage meeting.

A judge increased bail for the two men to $850,000, and they were released.

Prosecutors asked for a contempt hearing after a video surfaced on social media where Macias allegedly can be heard narrating a live video from behind the camera during a “trucker protest” in Washington and allegations that he attended at least one political rally for a Virginia candidate who has called for the execution of everyone involved in President Joe Biden’s election.

A hearing in the initial contempt allegation is scheduled for Friday. In the motion Monday, prosecutors asked that Macias be found guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced to five months and 29 days in jail.