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Proud Boy leaders say they can’t prepare for trial from jail

With an ongoing pandemic, the men claim it’s too difficult to communicate with their attorneys ahead of what is sure to be a lengthy and complex trial. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — Attorneys for two far-right extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 found sympathy but little support as they told a judge Monday that they are struggling to prepare for trial with their clients denied bail. 

Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs have been locked up since April, when U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly determined that the two Proud Boys leaders played a key role in planning tactical strategy for the right wing extremist group before the insurrection — like splitting up to overtake the police, acquiring tactical gear and hiding the group’s texting conversations. Kelly's decision was upheld on appeal. 

Before that, Nordean, who also goes by Rufio Panman, and Biggs had been released on bail after their February arrest. 

“The court is going to feel like it is Phil Murray in Groundhog Day,” Nicholas D. Smith, who is representing Nordean, told Judge Kelly at a hearing this afternoon on their motion to reopen bail

Smith said that lines in jail for detainees to get the laptops on which they can review evidence have become longer, and it’s almost impossible to prepare for a trial when you can’t talk to your client frequently. 

“The Justice Department called this one of the largest investigations in its history,” Smith said. “Imagine how difficult it could be, particularly in the time of the pandemic, to adequately prepare for your trial when you aren’t able to see your attorney, let alone review documents with them.”

Kelly, a Trump appointee, responded that he was sympathetic to the concerns about preparing for trial, but said that it wasn’t one of the main factors the court can weigh in deciding whether to order pretrial detention. 

“It’s critical to prepare,” Kelly said. “Even if I were to deny your motion, I would still have a problem and issue to work on — that you have proper access to your client and evidence.”

John Daniel Hull, who is representing Biggs, told Kelly that he needs his client to be at home, where he can communicate with him either by phone, in person or by Zoom every day for three to four months. 

“And that’s a conservative estimate,” Hull said. “He’s a bright guy and has a lot of insights to give me. I can’t do that unless I am with him or have some sort of communication with him.”

Attorneys for Nordean and Biggs also argued that the intervening months since April has brought new evidence, including a video showing law enforcement permitting Nordean to enter the Capitol — evidence that Smith claims the government withheld until after Nordean’s bail had been revoked. 

With the ongoing discovery, Smith says that the two men might not be able to get a trial until next summer. 

"It is so essential that the politics of this doesn't overwhelm the facts," Smith told Kelly during the hearing.

"The politics of any of this has nothing to do with it. Not one whit," Judge Kelly bit back. 

Nordean’s family have offered to put up a $1 million bond — which the government suggested was “dirty money” in a court filing last month. 

“Defendant has not offered the court any information about the source of these funds, and the sudden windfall raises more questions about Defendant’s continuing power and clout than it resolves,” Justice Department attorney Jason McCullough wrote in a filing.  

In Monday’s hearing, the government attorney acknowledged that a $1 million bond would give Nordean motivation to comply with the release restrictions, but was concerned that there would be no way to monitor the use of his electronic devices. 

Nordean and Biggs will remain in jail until Kelly makes a decision on the motion. 

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter

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