Maine Capitol riot defendant says political prejudice precludes fair trial in Washington – WABI


WASHINGTON (WMTW) – Maine’s first Capitol riot defendant, Kyle Fitzsimons, contends he cannot get a fair trial in Washington, D.C., because the district’s population is so anti-Trump, and Fitzsimons is a vocal Trump supporter.
But today in court papers, federal prosecutors described that argument as “premature and meritless” and derided the change of venue motion as “long on hyperbole and short on actual fact.”
“Courts routinely conclude that, despite significant negative pretrial publicity, defendants received a fair trial in the location where they committed their crimes,” wrote Assistant United States Attorney Robert Juman, citing as examples as recent as Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and as historic as the Watergate conspirators.
Fitzsimons is one of 664 defendants criminally charged for participating in the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, which aimed to stop its Electoral College certification of President Joe Biden’s election and the defeat of Donald Trump.
Fitzsimons, who worked as a freelance butcher, has been in federal custody since his arrest at his home in Lebanon, Maine, on Feb. 4.
He was subsequently transferred to the federal jail in Washington, where he recently spent his 38th birthday.
Prosecutors today responded to the Oct. 29 motion filed by Fitzsimons defense attorney Natasha Taylor-Smith, which highlighted how 95% of D.C. voters cast ballots in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections against Trump.
“The Democratic candidate received more than 90% of the vote in both elections. This astounding lack of political diversity is unique to the jury pool for the District of Columbia,” wrote Taylor-Smith, a federal defender based in Philadelphia. “A trial in Washington, D.C., for Mr. Fitzsimons would be by jurors who voted almost unanimously against Donald Trump, who have been barraged with propaganda about a ‘white nationalist’ attack and are continuously told they were victims of an ‘insurrection,’ who were placed under curfew and locked down as a result of the danger posed by ‘domestic violent extremists.’”
No trial date has been set for Fitzsimons.
In requesting a change of venue to Maine – “Maine is not overrun by prejudiced D.C. politics” – defense attorney Taylor-Smith asserted any future D.C. jury pool would be tainted by political bias.
Taylor-Smith’s motion said, “The current President of the United States attacked Trump supporters as ‘thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists.’ The media coverage of Mr. Fitzsimons called him a racist, xenophobe, and insurrectionist. Those who control the political narrative are sending a message to all prospective jurors that anything other than a guilty verdict will be unacceptable.”
Prosecutors noted venue change motions by other Capitol riot defendants, citing politics and pretrial publicity, have been rejected.
“Indeed, given the sheer number of people number involved in the Capitol Attack, it is unlikely that more than a handful of D.C. residents could identify Fitzsimons by name, much less have gotten to know Fitzsimons as “a ‘racist xenophobe’ in that group of ‘insurrectionists’ who triggered the city siege,” prosecutor Juman wrote.
As for negative media attention, Juman continued, “As support for that proposition, Fitzsimons cites articles by national publications, such as DailyKos, CNN, and Esquire magazine. And Fitzsimons ignores the fact that the first results that show up in a Google search for “Kyle Fitzsimons” are articles from WMTW 8, the Portland Press Herald, and the Sun Journal, media outlets located in Maine—the precise place where Fitzsimons seeks to be tried.”
The government brought a superseding indictment against Fitzsimons on Nov. 10, but he faces the same 10 counts as before, including multiple felonies.
The most serious charges accuse him of attempting to violently breach police lines at the West Terrace of the Capitol, fighting, and injuring two federal officers.
During nine-and-a-half months of pre-trial detention, Fitzsimons has twice been denied bail, most recently on Sept. 24 by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, who deemed him to be a danger to the community.
Defense attorney Taylor-Smith is appealing Contreras’ ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
She has described Fitzsimons as someone who neither planned or coordinated any violent acts on Jan. 6 and who drove to and attended the Trump rally alone.
“Mr. Fitzsimons was caught up in the frenzy of the rally and protest,” Taylor-Smith wrote in her unsuccessful motion for bail. “He was swept up in the large crowd and behaved in a manner that was completely foreign to his actions before or after January 6th.”
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