Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trial begins for Capitol rioter who was an off-duty cop

Thomas Robertson is the third defendant to go to trial rather than plead guilty to charges over last year's insurrection.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a police officer who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with a fellow cop.

Thomas Robertson of Ferrum, Virginia, and Jacob Fracker were fired by the Rocky Mount Police Department by Jan. 10 and arrested another few days later. Though the pair were set to go to trial together as co-defendants this week, Fracker struck a plea deal with prosecutors last month and is expected to testify against Robertson.

Details of Fracker's plea may undercut Robertson's claims he was inside the Capitol peacefully on Jan. 6 while a joint session of Congress was underway to certify then-President Donald Trump's failure to secure a second term.

Fracker admitted that, by the time he and Robertson entered the Capitol during the riot, they had already agreed to attempt to delay congressional proceedings and assisted each other in doing so.

Court documents say the men brought their police identification badges and guns along when they drove to Washington on the morning of Jan. 6 but left them in the car. Around 2:15 p.m., according to the government's case, the off-duty police duo took a selfie “making an obscene gesture” in front of a statue in the Capitol Crypt. 

Robertson has spent much of the last 15 months behind bars, having breached the terms of his pretrial release that forbade him from possessing any weapons.

About six months into pretrial release, the government got a warrant to search Robertson's Virginia home based on emails showing that he was actively engaged in the acquisition of several weapons.

“In connection with this search, the FBI not only found evidence that Robertson had amassed an arsenal of 34 firearms through a local [federal firearms licenser] in Roanoke, but agents also found a loaded M4 rifle, ammunition, and a partially assembled pipe bomb in Robertson’s home,” prosecutors wrote in a June 30 motion.

Robertson, who is a gun safety instructor, insisted that the partially assembled pipe is not a destructive device but a training prop for his classes. The judge sided with the government and ordered that he be incarcerated pending trial.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, is presiding over the trial. Opening arguments are slated to begin on Tuesday. 

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.

More than 775 people have been charged so far in connection with the riot, and at least 200 have pleaded guilty to mostly misdemeanor charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment.

Robertson is the third Capitol riot defendant to go to trial, following the convictions of Guy Reffitt on all charges and of Couy Griffin on all but one — Griffin was acquitted of disorderly conduct.

More convictions from this first slate of Capitol riot trials would likely bring yet more plea deals from those who have been waiting over a year for their day in court.

Fracker faces up to five years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000. He is scheduled to appear in court for a status conference on April 28.

Follow @EmilyZantowNews
Categories / Criminal, Government, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.