Columbia area man linked to Proud Boys chooses to stay in jail and not seek bond

John Monk
·4 min read

A Columbia area man who has been linked to the Proud Boys and who is being investigated by the FBI for possibly being in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot has decided to stay in jail rather than try to get out on bail.

The man, James Giannakos, had hearings scheduled in federal court in Columbia Thursday morning where he was to seek bail and to challenge the government’s evidence against him in a case involving threatening telephone calls from a South Carolina phone number to a former federal prosecutor in a case involving a Proud Boys leader.

But records on file in U.S. District Court in South Carolina say Giannakos — who lived in a house in Gilbert in Lexington County — has waived his rights for the time being to any hearings and will stay in jail for the foreseeable future.

Allen Burnside, Giannakos’s federal public defender lawyer, could not be reached for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment on the case.

Jack Swerling, a veteran South Carolina criminal defense lawyer, said in an interview there might be several reasons why Giannakos is choosing to stay in jail.

For one thing, Swerling said, Giannakos might have decided to cooperate with the authorities and tell what he knows about various matters the FBI is interested in, such as any Proud Boys ties he has and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

That is a tactic sometimes used by criminal defendants who are hoping to get a reduced sentence if they eventually plead guilty, Swerling said.

Swerling said other possible reasons for the delay include:

Giannakos’ lawyer may have wanted a chance to do discovery on the FBI’s case “to see what the case is about” and so be better prepared when a hearing is finally held.

“If you have information that is favorable to you in discovery, you can use that at your bail hearing,” Swerling said.

It may be an effort to wait until some of the negative publicity surrounding the ongoing impeachment trial and the Jan. 6 Capitol riots goes away, Swerling said.

A defendant can usually only seek these preliminary and bail hearings one time, Swerling said. “If you get denied, you can’t come back. You can always push out a hearing until when there are more favorable circumstances.”

FBI agents searching the two-story house where Giannakos lived in Lexington County found a U.S. Capitol Police riot shield and other evidence linking him to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, according to federal court records.

A search warrant in the case says that evidence now in possession of the FBI shows “probable cause” that James Giannakos, who is being held in jail in the Midlands, “participated in the capital riots of Jan. 6, 2021.” Federal agents arrested Giannakos last week on a charge of making threatening phone calls, which is unrelated to any possible riot charges.

In addition to the Capitol Police riot shield, the FBI search of Ganniakos’ house turned up a District of Columbia subway map, pepper spray, knee pads, a tactical vest and other evidence, according to federal court records.

Also seized at the Lexington County house by the FBI agents were a Proud Boys “Save America” leaflet and a Proud Boys “riptide” card, according to court records.

The Proud Boys are “an extremist right-wing group that has gained a reputation for leading protests that have often turned violent in cities such as Washington DC and Portland, Ore.,” court records in this case say. At least eight Proud Boy are among the more than 150 people arrested on charges related to the Capitol riot, according to news accounts.

In former President Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, members of the U.S. House trial team repeatedly referred to various Proud Boys members on Wednesday as having played a significant role in the Jan. 6 rampage at the U.S. Capitol.

Trump, who for months had without evidence told his supporters that the Nov. 3 presidential election was rigged and the Democrats had “stolen” his victory, had on Jan. 6 repeated false election fraud claims before a crowd of thousands who had gathered as Congress counted states’ Electoral College votes to certify then-President elect Joe Biden’s win.

In that speech Trump repeatedly told supporters that he’d won the election and that Vice President Mike Pence had power to reverse the outcome of the election. According to the impeachment articles, Trump’s remarks, including telling the crowd “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,” encouraged and led to the violent riot at the Capitol.

Trump’s supporters, who broke through police lines and rampaged through the Capitol, forced senators and representatives to flee and closed down Congress for more than six hours. Five people died, including one police officer, and more than 140 police officers were injured, some seriously. Lawmakers completed the count in the early morning hours of Jan. 7.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim May and Elliott Daniels are prosecutors on the case.