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Snowstorm pushes Capitol rioter hearing to anniversary of attack

A member of the Oath Keepers accused of helping organize the insurrection will ask for pretrial release one year to the day after the Capitol riot.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A snowstorm battering the mid-Atlantic Monday delayed a number of hearings for those accused of storming the U.S. Capitol a year ago.

Among them is a member of the right-swing militia group the Oath Keepers who will now ask for conditional release on Jan. 6, 2022, one year to the day after he allegedly helped lead the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Kenneth Harrelson is among the over 700 individuals arrested for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. He was indicted in March for a myriad of crimes alongside some fellow members of the Oath Keepers, a group which believes "the federal government has been coopted by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights," according to court filings.

Harrelson and some of his codefendants failed to convince a judge to throw out obstructing, influencing or impeding an official proceeding charges in late December based on claims their actions were protected by the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, pointed to evidence like the group "bringing and contributing paramilitary gear and supplies—including firearms—for the January 6 operation" as grounds to deny their motion.

"If the government can carry its burden of proof at trial, a conviction of Defendants premised on such activities would not violate the First Amendment," Mehta wrote in a Dec. 20 opinion.

The newly scheduled hearing to be held Thursday will mark Harrelson's second shot at pretrial release. 

He argued in his first attempt that he and his fellow rioters were facing forced vaccinations and a myriad of human rights violations while jailed ahead of trial, Mehta called such claims “fantastic” because they offered no evidence to support them.

“Whatever the merits of those concerns, this court is not the proper forum in which to raise or resolve them,” the judge warned in a Dec. 23 docket order denying the request.

Harrelson and his fellow Oath Keepers are set to go on trial in April.

Hearings for James Tate Grant And Ryan Stephen Samsel were also delayed Monday. Both are charged with assaulting police officers during the Capitol attack. 

Grant’s hearing involves the government’s motion to revoke his pretrial release after he was found allegedly drunk and a danger to himself and others in the parking lot of a North Carolina restaurant on Dec. 7, 2021. He had an assault rifle and 60 rounds of ammo in his car, according to Wake County police.

Samsel, meanwhile, was set to ask a judge to approve more discovery requests, something the government argued would be difficult considering the “unusual and complex” nature of the ongoing investigations into the attack. 

New dates for Samsel and Grant’s hearings have not yet been set by the court.

One of the more recently indicted insurrectionists, Tim Levon Boughner, was also supposed to be brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui on Monday afternoon, but the teleconference ended without either counsel or the judge chiming in.

In that case, the government was supposed to ask for Boughner's transfer from Michigan, where he’s currently incarcerated, to Washington after he was charged in November with assaulting a police officer during the Capitol attack.

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