Lawyer for cop at Capitol riot grills star witness on plea deal | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Lawyer for cop at Capitol riot grills star witness on plea deal

Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker were supposed to be co-defendants, but one took a plea deal and testified against the other.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A former Virginia police officer who pleaded guilty to storming the Capitol took the witness stand again on Thursday to testify against the former department supervisor who is fighting the same charges at trial.

As part of his plea deal, Jacob Fracker has admitted that he and Thomas Robertson, his supervisor from the Rocky Mount Police Department, entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 with an agreement in place to try to delay the congressional proceedings going on that day — namely the certification of the 2020 presidential election results — and assist each other in doing so.

Fracker, 30, would have been on trial alongside Robertson, 49, this week in Washington, but the government dropped the charges against Fracker in exchange for his cooperation. His testimony against Robertson began Wednesday and continued Thursday with cross-examination by Robertson’s attorney, Mark Rollins.

“Is it fair to say you didn’t have an agreement with anyone when you entered the Capitol, right?” Rollins asked.

“Not a spoken one, no,” Fracker said.

Asked if he had an agreement specifically with Robertson about what was going to happen when they went up the Capitol steps, Fracker said there was a metaphorical agreement. Fracker tried to explain it by giving an example of a street race starting between two people who pulled up next to each other at a stop light, but did not speak.

“He revs his engine, you rev yours, so kinda, like, you understand when this light turns green — we’re gonna race,” Fracker explained.

Rollins then asked Fracker if, while inside the Capitol that day, he knew both chambers of Congress were meeting to certify the 2020 presidential election results.

Fracker said he had “some sort of understanding” because he had heard a man earlier in the day say something along the lines of, if then-Vice President Mike Pence did not do something then the results would not be valid.

“So you didn’t know how Congress certified the vote?” the defense attorney asked.

“Correct,” Fracker said. He also confirmed that, during an interview with an FBI agent, he stated he thought Congress had been holding a Zoom meeting that day.

Asked later whether he went inside the Capitol to have his opinion heard or to corruptly obstruct Congress, Fracker said both.

Rollins then followed up by inquiring whether Fracker would personally enter the Capitol to corruptly obstruct Congress.

“I would not personally, but looking back at my actions that day, it makes sense that that was what was going on,” he said.

In addition to his focus on the agreement, the defense attorney pressed Fracker about the walking stick Robertson brought with him to the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

While the defense insists it is merely a walking stick that helps Robertson get around due to injuries from military service in Iraq, the government argues it is a dangerous weapon Robertson used to block police during the insurrection.

“At any time during that day, did you see Mr. Robertson use that stick as a weapon against anyone?” Rollins asked.

“No,” Fracker responded.

Fracker was also asked about the $30,000 Robertson paid him in the days after the riot.

Fracker said they had both been fired by the Rocky Mount Police Department as of Jan. 10, and Robertson had offered to pay one month of his salary.

“So he covered your legal fees, took care of your family, and is it fair to say he didn't do that because he was trying to … buy your testimony, right?” Rollins asked.

“I don’t believe so,” Fracker said.

After he finished testifying, the government called FBI Special Agent Kathryn Camilleri, lead agent assigned to Robertson’s case, to the witness stand.

Asked whether Robertson identified the stick as a flag pole or a walking stick when FBI agents seized it from his house, Camilleri said he referred to it as a flag pole. She also said she reviewed hours of video footage of Robertson at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that she never once saw him limp.

On cross-examination, Robertson’s attorney asked the agent about Fracker’s claim that on Jan. 19, 2021, both men were told they had outstanding arrest warrants, and Robertson invited Fracker over so they could turn themselves in together. When Fracker came over, he said Robertson asked for his phone and then placed it in an ammunition can along with his own device before they headed to the police station.

Rollins asked the agent if Fracker made conflicting statements during an interview about what happened to his phone and she said he did at times. She also confirmed that at one point, Fracker said he thought he had lost it on the metro, but later corrected himself.

“He corrected himself after everyone left the room and he was able to speak with his attorney?” Rollins asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

Robertson’s defense team later called two of his friends to testify as character witnesses, both of whom testified that Robertson used a cane to walk after suffering injuries while deployed overseas.

Edward Lovado, who has known Robertson since 2009, said he had previously seen him use a stick to lean on and he recently saw a stick in Fracker’s car.

After the defense ended its case, the government called the FBI agent back to the stand on rebuttal.

Prosecutors asked her to read a message Robertson sent to a friend less than three months after the insurrection, in which he said he can still carry a 30-pound pack and run two miles in 16 minutes.

“I’m as dangerous as I’ll ever be,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, is presiding over Robertson’s trial. The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Friday.

Robertson has pleaded not guilty to six charges: obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; civil disorder and aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and obstruction of an official proceeding related to tampering with evidence.

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