Jacob Chansley’s Lawyers Confront DOJ Claim He Didn’t Suppress Jan. 6 Evidence
Written by Gary Bai via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest objection to allegations that it suppressed evidence in its January 6 prosecution of defendant Jacob Chansley takes on the Sixth AmendmentChansley’s current and former attorneys told The Epoch Times in separate interviews this week.
“They are hiding. Affirmatively, they choose not to disclose [exculpatory evidence],” Albert Watkins, Jacob Chansley’s former attorney who negotiated the Navy veteran’s 41-month sentence deal in 2021, told The Epoch Times on Tuesday, referring to the DOJ.
“They’re doing it in a way that, in my view, leads to an inescapable conclusion that the Department of Justice has done more damage to our democracy by how it treated the defendants on January 6 than anything that had happened in January 6 .”
Jacob Chansley is seen outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
Watkins was reacting to the DOJ’s Sunday court filing on another defendant’s case on Jan. 6, in which the government was confronted, for the first time in court, by the newly surfaced surveillance tapes of the Capitol violation in January 6, 2021 by Fox News’ Tucker. Carlson Tonight Show.
Among those tapes was a clip showing Chansley, unarmed, walking with several Capitol Police officers who did not try to remove him from the Capitol building, which Carlson said showed Chansley was less violent in January 6 of what the government described.
Despite the video records of the Navy veteran’s behavior, Chansley’s current and former attorneys argued that the government violated Chansley’s rights by suppressing that evidence during his trial, in response to DOJ claims that the opposite on Sunday
The response to this debate is important because it sheds light on the government’s fiscal conduct in handling the January 6 cases, many of which have ended in quick convictions.
Chansley is serving a 41-month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to an obstruction charge in September 2021.
Government has shared all evidence: DOJ
In a filing Sunday, the DOJ said it provided the tapes to Chansley’s attorney during the discovery phase of Chansley’s trial in 2021, thus meeting the requirement to produce exculpatory evidence, or evidence in favor of the accused, to the defense lawyer.
The filing was in response to a motion to dismiss filed by attorneys for Dominic Pezzola, a Jan. 6 defendant currently on trial, who alleged that the tapes shown on Tucker Carlson show the government “withheld” evidence to prosecute participants in the January 6 Capitol breach.
Attorney Steven Metcalf (2nd L), representing defendant Dominic Pezzola for his alleged role in the violation of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, arrives at the U.S. Courthouse in E. Barrett Prettyman on December 19, 2022. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
“CCTV footage is a key piece of evidence in almost all of the January 6 casesand was produced en masse, tagged by camera number and by time, to all defense attorneys in all cases,” the DOJ wrote in its filing.
The department cited Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 Supreme Court case in which prosecutors must make exculpatory evidence available to defense counsel. As part of this requirement, the DOJ cited the text of Brady which states that a Brady violation requires that the material in question be “something that is being “removed.”[ed] by the prosecution'”.
“Therefore, Pezzola’s Brady claim fails at the threshold, because nothing has been suppressed,” the DOJ wrote, based on the claim that it had provided Watkins with the “necessary tools” to identify relevant evidence of CCTV despite the voluminous discovery.
“Accordingly, the volume of discovery does not excuse defense counsel from making reasonable efforts to determine whether an article has occurred, much less before filing inaccurate and inflammatory allegations of discovery failures,” the DOJ wrote .
DOJ Suppressed Evidence: Chansley’s Lawyers
Chansley’s attorneys disagreed with the DOJ’s claims, saying the threshold for suppression is lower than the government claims it is.
“Suppression … is not the ominous burial of evidence,” Bill Shipley, Jacob Chansley’s current attorney, said in an interview with The Epoch Times on Monday. “It just means it wasn’t brought to light by the government. The government knew what was there and didn’t make light of the fact that it was there.”
Shipley says the government may have violated Brady because it failed to identify the tapes and their nature as potentially exculpatory evidence during Chansley’s trial. Making them available without making sure the defendant knows the tapes exist can constitute suppression, according to Shipley.
“Suppression simply means that the defendant did not discover it beyond a point where it could be used,” said Shipley, who was a federal prosecutor for 21 years. “If the government produced thousands of hours of video and said, ‘There’s one minute of evidence that’s favorable to Jacob Chansley, good luck,’ that production is not effective disclosure of Brady.”
The tapes are relevant for reasons beyond proving Chansley’s innocence or guilt, Shipley told The Epoch Times, noting that they are important in answering the question of whether Chansley’s sentence was fair under due process considerations.
“The question is: Were Jacob Chansley’s rights to due process and effective assistance of counsel violated? Were procedural requirements met so that the process and outcome of your case was a fair proceeding? Shipley challenged.
“These are clearly the type of videos that Judge had [Royce Lamberth] “Seeing them at the sentencing, I might have come to the conclusion that Mr. Chansey is not the personification of evil as the government has made him out to be,” the lawyer added. Judge Royce Lamberth presided over Chansley’s trial.
“That might have led Judge Lambert to think that maybe 41 months was too much time to give him, given all of his conduct, rather than the precise conduct that the government gave,” Shipley said.
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