Judge raps Jan. 6 defendant for travel to CPAC on ‘false pretenses’

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
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A Jan. 6 defendant who spent two days at CPAC — mingling with other defendants and at least one member of Congress — drew a fierce rebuke from a federal judge, who said he misled her about his whereabouts when she granted his permission to come to Washington.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson tore into Gabriel Garcia, a Miami-based member of the Proud Boys who faces civil disorder and obstruction charges, for what she said was a pattern of defying court orders and violating the conditions of his pretrial release.

“You are finished making up your own rules,” Jackson said, ordering Garcia into home detention and indicating that any more violations would result in his immediate incarceration. She said he seemed to have “disdain” for the court’s orders and be “somewhat contemptuous” of her authority.

Jackson’s anger was fueled in part by what she said was a pattern of defiance by Garcia, whose release conditions require him to seek permission from the court anytime he travels outside of Florida. Jackson noted that she has repeatedly granted his requests to travel — both for business purposes and for pleasure. She had even granted a previous trip to attend an event in support of Jan. 6 defendants when he properly disclosed it.

Garcia had already flirted with defiance, obtaining Jackson’s permission to travel to Nashville, Tenn., for business in 2021 only for court officials to later discover he misled them about his activities. Though Jackson noted her displeasure at the time, she continued to grant Garcia permission to travel, demanding itineraries and details of his plans. But she noted that Garcia had been “on notice” since then of the court’s concern about his compliance.

But when Garcia made a short-notice request to come to Washington in early March, he said it was to sit in on Jan. 6 trials and to meet with his lawyer. He made no mention of attending CPAC, even though he had said on a podcast prior to the request that he wanted to attend the conference but was concerned about getting the court’s permission.

Jackson noted that despite his emergency request and her demand that he provide an itinerary for his travel, Garcia never mentioned what she said was the true purpose of his trip: to attend CPAC. There, Garcia said he spoke with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) about accessing thousands of hours of Capitol surveillance footage made available by Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Jackson also pointed to Garcia’s use of social media. He told followers that he had secured a ride on former President Donald Trump’s plane to CPAC and even appended pictures that appeared to be from “Trump Force One,” which Jackson said raised the alarm of pretrial services officers tasked with ensuring Garcia’s compliance with court orders.

Garcia’s attorney, Aubrey Webb, acknowledged in court that Garcia did not actually fly with Trump to Washington. He argued that Garcia was true to his word and attended three hours of the Jan. 6 trial of Vitali GossJankowski during his trip.

But Jackson said the short attendance at a trial belied the emergency nature of his request, which also described an urgency to attend the trial of former Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio and another matter that Jackson herself was presiding over — neither of which Garcia attended.

The judge repeatedly emphasized that her decision to punish Garcia for pretrial violations was not a result of his political activity, noting that she had granted “every single request” by him to travel in the past, no matter the reason. But she said he specifically sought her permission to travel to Washington on “false pretenses.”

“When you lie about the reasons why that is necessary, that means the permission I gave you to leave the state was issued under false pretenses,” she said.

Jackson said Garcia’s decision to justify his trip to CPAC by claiming he needed to be in Washington to attend Jan. 6 trials was “too clever by half” and required a “strained Talmudic parsing” of her repeated orders to justify. She said that had he indicated his intention to go to the conference, she likely would have granted it and simply reminded him not to go to the District of Columbia.

Charging documents describe Garcia allegedly joining aggressive confrontations against police on Jan. 6, shouting “You fucking traitors,” encouraging the crowd to push forward and aiding other rioters participating in the unrest. Jackson noted that on Jan. 7 he sent a message to others saying “We need to go again in full force,” a comment she said justified his pretrial release conditions that included a bar on traveling to Washington for anything other than court proceedings and lawyer meetings.

Jackson’s decision to order Garcia on home detention was actually milder than requested by the court’s pretrial services office, which sought his immediate incarceration pending trial. Jackson said the request was “well-founded” but that she viewed home detention with strict conditions as more appropriate for now. However, she said any additional violation will result in immediate pretrial detention and said she would issue a bench warrant rather than invite him to her court to explain himself.

Garcia’s new conditions permit him to leave his home only for employment, religious services, medical treatment or court appearances. Any other activities outside his home must be approved by court officials two days in advance. Any travel outside the Miami area would require three days notice and permission from the court. Jackson also broadened Garcia’s prohibition from traveling to Washington, D.C., to include the entire D.C. metropolitan area, which includes areas in Maryland and Virginia as well.