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Capitol rioter fights to suppress self-disparaging FBI interview

Daniel Rodriguez compared himself to human excrement in an FBI interview that his defense now says was born from coercion and his sleep deprivation. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — A man who used a stun gun on a police officer during the Jan. 6 insurrection asked a federal judge Tuesday to have his incriminatory FBI interview erased from the record, saying agents took advantage of his emotional state. 

Daniel Rodriguez broke down at the Riverside, California, office of the FBI after agents executed a warrant on his home in Fontana at dawn on March 31 and took the 38-year-old away in handcuffs. The agents warned Rodriguez that it would be bad for him if his statement didn't match up with the evidence about what he did in Washington, namely that he committed assault against an officer during the riot at the Capitol.

In a particularly damning exchange when he admitted to using a Taser on D.C. Police Officer Mike Fanone, Rodriguez fell apart as agents pressed him to explain why.

“I don’t know. I’m a piece of shit. I’m sorry. I don’t know,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a human being with children, and he’s not a bad guy. He sounds like he’s just doing his job and he’s — I’m an asshole.”

Rodriguez cried repeatedly, according to a transcript of the roughly three-hour interview, as he described his involvement in the extremist right-wing movement known as the Three Percenters. “I’m so stupid. I thought I was going to be awesome. I thought I was a good guy,” Rodriguez said.

The defense is now seeking to suppress those statements, with attorney Cecilia Valencia arguing that Rodriguez's admissions should not be considered voluntary because the agents used psychologically manipulative tactics and purportedly didn’t correctly give Miranda warnings. 

“The already coercive circumstances leading into the interrogation made Mr. Rodriguez particularly susceptible to any further psychologically coercive interrogation tactics, which Agents Armenta and Elias relied upon heavily,” Valencia wrote in her brief to the court. 

In an opposition brief, meanwhile, prosecutors note that Rodriguez never requested a lawyer and never invoked his right to remain silent. As for coercion, Rodriguez was out of handcuffs the entire interview, and the agents spoke calmly and professionally. 

“The defendant stated from the beginning that he wanted to speak with the agents and never stated otherwise throughout the interview that he wished to terminate the interaction,” wrote Justice Department attorney Kimberly Raschall. 

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson held a nearly four-hour hearing on the motion Tuesday. Though she found no violation of Rodriguez’s Miranda rights, the judge said she would have to watch the three-hour video footage of the interview before ruling on whether the agent’s tactics were coercive. 

“I’m not sure I see the will being overborn and the coerciveness,” Jackson said. 

Earlier on Tuesday, James Little pleaded guilty to unlawful parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. Little, from North Carolina, texted his family, “just took over the Capitol.” His family turned him into the FBI. 

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