WASHINGTON (CN) — The sentencing of a Maryland man who touted himself as one of the last rioters to leave the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was abruptly called off Wednesday after new video of his role in the insurrection surfaced just hours before his court hearing.
A group called Sedition Hunters tweeted videos and photos of Reeder attacking an officer in a throng of protesters, upending what prosecutors thought they knew about the 55-year-old man who is a registered Democrat and claimed to be at the scene as an “accidental tourist.”
“We are extremely good at what we do, our small group has spent thousands of hours on research,” Sedition Hunters wrote. “Yet, only 4 Hours before a court hearing for a plea deal for Robert Reeder do we find the assault. This is truly a massive undertaking! Did we make it in time? #WeHope.”
Reeder had previously tried to paint himself as more of an observer than a participant in the riots. His attorney said that Reeder didn’t support Donald Trump but attended his rally “having nothing better to do.”
“Mr. Reeder is not politically active, is not and has never been a member of any right-wing or anti-government or extremist group and has, unfortunately, been publicly grouped with many others who views he abhors,” his attorney said in court documents.
This characterization is at odds with multiple incriminating videos that investigators found on Reeder's phone. In addition to appearing to chant “Fight for Trump” in one video, according to the complaint against him, Reeder recorded himself in another shouting at an officer, "you needed to retreat!"
About an hour later, according to time stamps on the videos, Reeder recorded this message: “Just left the Capitol, I was one of the last people out. I was in there for over half an hour. I got gassed several times inside the Capitol, many times outside the Capitol,” Reeder said in one of his videos. “Got shot with pepper balls. It was fucking nuts. We had to battle with the Police inside. It was crazy ... absolutely insane.”
Reeder turned himself in and surrendered his phone in January after facial-recognition software matched footage from the riot to his Maryland driver's license.
With no other evidence against him, however, Reeder accepted a deal from the government in which he pleaded guilty to just one misdemeanor count out of the four with which he was charged: parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
Reeder was expected to be sentenced to serve a two-month term, with a maximum of six months. Judges have already sentenced five other Capitol rioters for the same parading charge as Reader: four have been sentenced to probation for the misdemeanor, while another had served six months already while he waited for court dates.
Prosecutors recommended jail time for Reeder given apparent lack of remorse.
Earlier on Wednesday, a New Mexico man accepted a plea deal for the same parading charge but is expected to get the lighter sentence based on his expression of remorse in court.
“I got caught up in the events of the day,” Leonard Gruppo told U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell during his plea agreement hearing. “I knew I shouldn’t have. I did not intend to disrupt Congress.”
At the time of the riot, members of the Senate and House had gathered for a joint session to certify President Joe Biden's victory over Trump in the 2020 election.
Reeder lobbied for a sentence of probation, claiming he only went into the Capitol to find water after being pepper sprayed but began taking pictures and videos after he was “struck by the awe and beauty of the Rotunda.”
Prosecutors found the premise a hard pill to swallow. “Time and time again, rather than turn around and retreat, the defendant chose to continue to riot and record,” the government's sentencing memo states.
Reed meanwhile said that he felt like the police wanted them to come in, to demonize Trump people and get their soundbites.
His sentencing has been rescheduled for October 8 as prosecutors sort through the new evidence.
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