D.C. judge reverses magistrate who ordered Fort Worth Capitol riot suspect’s release

·3 min read

The question of whether people who were present for a January riot at the U.S. Capitol should be jailed until trial has been settled largely by the specific acts that they are alleged to have had committed.

There is a pool of people who were present but who are not accused of violence. They have been charged with misdemeanors, and their participation is generally thought to be not as flagrant as others.

Some of the more than 550 defendants did not or could not get inside the Capitol building, and their crimes occurred outdoors.

Beyond considering those circumstances, judges have reviewed defendants’ activity in the time between the riot and their arrest.

For Thomas Ballard, a 35-year-old overnight maintenance worker who lives in Fort Worth, the call on detention largely rested on video evidence that Chief Judge Beryl Howell of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia believes shows him to be a member of a class of demonstrators whose conduct was particularly serious.

Ballard assaulted law enforcement officers with a table top, baton during about 15 minutes in the late afternoon on Jan. 6, the FBI alleges. He was arrested last week.

It appears that Ballard was not inside the Captiol building as the legislators were considering certifying the Electoral College vote, but was “front and center” at a clash with police near an archway entrance to the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Juman said at hearing on Wednesday during which Ballard’s custody status was reconsidered.

Howell reversed U.S. Magistrate Judge Hal Ray in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, and ordered that Ballard be held in custody before trial. Ballard appeared via videoconference from the Parker County Jail.

The review was prompted by a prosecutor’s motion, and Ray had ordered a stay on Friday.

The case, like others involving people who are alleged to have been involved in the Capitol intrusion, is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which appears to intend to seek the detention of all Capitol riot defendants before trial.

“I’ve been instructed by the District of D.C. that they are planning to appeal any ruling releasing, so we would like to get a brief stay on this order so that they can file the appropriate motions in their District Court,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer told Ray.

Ballard is charged with assaulting officers, entering a restricted building with a deadly weapon, disorderly conduct in a restricted building with a deadly weapon, engaging in violence in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, physical violence on Capitol grounds, and demonstrating, parading or picketing in a Capitol building.

Ray ruled that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had demonstrated there was probable cause to believe that Ballard committed the crimes.

An FBI special agent testified on Friday that Ballard indicated during an interview that he was outside the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. Ballard said that he did not remember assaulting officers, the agent testified.

The FBI in May received a tip from a person who had put a photograph of a riot participant into a facial search recognition platform that returned Ballard’s YouTube channel.

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