WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite the prosecution’s request for more time, a federal court judge says he is not willing to delay the criminal trial of a Berryville man accused of participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“I am concerned about a lengthy pre-trial detention period,” U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amit P. Mehta said Thursday morning during a status hearing involving Thomas Edward Caldwell.
Caldwell is accused of participating in the insurrection and having a leadership role in Oath Keepers, a national militia group that allegedly advocated for and participated in a “Stop the Steal” protest that ended people swarming and entering the Capitol Building in a failed attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The 65-year-old Caldwell was arrested and jailed on Jan. 19 after the FBI raided his Berryville home. He was transferred to house arrest on March 12.
According to court records, Caldwell is charged with the federal crimes of conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining on restricted grounds and tampering with documents or proceedings. Earlier this month, he filed a motion to dismiss the charge for entering and remaining on restricted grounds, claiming the U.S. Secret Service had not established a perimeter around the Capitol and that he never entered the building. Mehta denied that motion on Tuesday.
In late May, Mehta also denied Caldwell’s request to be released from house arrest. As a result, Caldwell is only allowed to leave home with the government’s permission for necessities like legal and medical appointments.
On Thursday, Caldwell and 16 other insurrection suspects participated in a status hearing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn L. Rakoczy told Mehta, “I have significant concerns about the Jan. 31 trial date.”
Rakoczy said prosecutors are still making their way through mountains of evidence including videos and photos shot during the insurrection, radio transmissions, GPS data, hundreds of thousands of tips from private citizens, phone records, social media posts and grand jury documents.
She said the defendants would probably appreciate a delay because it would give their attorneys more time to review the evidence being shared by prosecutors through discovery, a legal process that compels the government to disclose to defense lawyers any information it plans to present at trial.
Rakoczy suggested April as a more feasible time for a trial, but Mehta said he wasn’t willing to change the date at this time because several of the suspects, including Caldwell, have been in custody for months and will most likely remain there until their trials are over. If the trial is held on Jan. 31, Caldwell will have been in federal custody for one year and 12 days.
When Mehta asked Caldwell’s attorney, David W. Fischer, how he felt about going to trial on Jan. 31, Fischer replied, “We have no issues.”
Mehta scheduled the next status hearing in the case involving Caldwell for Oct. 14.
A total of 642 people, including at least 29 from Virginia, have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. As of Tuesday, only 58 suspects have entered guilty pleas. The rest are awaiting trial in federal court.