Trial Paused After Attorney Accuses FBI of Altering Evidence
A much-watched trial involving Jan. 6 defendants who are members of the Proud Boys organization came to a screeching halt late last week after an attorney for one of the accused leveled the accusation that the FBI had altered evidence in the case.
Dominic Pezzola, one of the defendants in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach trial, had the proceedings paused on Thursday after defense attorneys presented classified FBI messages in court. The defense attorneys claimed that the messages showed FBI agents discussing the alteration of evidence, The Epoch Times reported.
Pezzola is currently on trial for obstruction and conspiracy charges related to his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. He was arrested on Jan. 15, 2021, and indicted the same month. The trial began in January of this year.
“There are a couple of emails between FBI agents casually discussing altering a document and destroying hundreds of pieces of evidence. It’s very disturbing and right now we have more questions than answers,” Roger Roots, an attorney at John Pierce Law who represents Pezzola, told the outlet in an email.
Roots confirmed that the trial was paused by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was appointed by former President Trump, in Washington after leaked messages from the FBI were revealed in court.
Roots was referring to an exchange that came to light on Wednesday during the testimony of FBI special agent Nicole Miller, who was involved in the agency’s investigations of the Jan. 6 defendants, the outlet said.
During the cross-examination of Miller by Nick Smith, attorney for Proud Boys member Ethan Nordean, classified FBI emails were revealed that were hidden in a tab in an Excel spreadsheet and were used as evidence in Pezzola’s case by his defense attorney to support a motion to dismiss the charges against Pezzola.
In the motion, Pezzola’s legal team argued that the emails revealed that the FBI monitored the communications between Nordean and his lawyer, which violates the Sixth Amendment that prohibits interference with the right to counsel, The Epoch Times continued.
“In the Nordean case, confidential attorneys-client trial/defense strategy and position was wrongfully obtained by the government, about which was overheard, shared, utilized, where potentially ‘338 items of evidence’ were ordered to be ‘destroyed,’” Pezzola’s legal team noted in its motion to dismiss.
A separate filing by Nordean’s lawyers said that Miller noted in one correspondence that “[her] boss assigned [her] 338 items of evidence [she has] to destroy.” Nordean’s lawyers further alleged that another email showed an agent requesting Miller to “go into [a] CHS [informant] report” that Miller “just put [together] and edit out that [the agent] was present.”
Pezzola’s lawyers also claimed in their motion that the emails reveal that Miller had “admitted fabricating evidence and following orders to destroy hundreds of items of evidence.” They also alleged that the government had gained information that was beneficial to their case, resulting in substantial prejudice to all the defendants, including Pezzola, The Epoch Times noted.
“If justice means anything, it requires this case to be dismissed,” Pezzola’s lawyer said.
“My thoughts are we need a longer pause to get to the bottom of some of Agent Miller’s emails,” Roots told the outlet.
Pezzola’s legal team also asserted in their motion to dismiss that recently discovered footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol breach is exculpatory evidence, which the government failed to disclose, thus violating their client’s constitutional rights as defined in Brady v. Maryland. In the 1963 case, the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must provide exculpatory evidence to the defense counsel.
The motion came just two days after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) released over 40,000 hours of footage from Jan. 6 to Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who subsequently aired some of the footage on his show on Monday and Tuesday.
One of the tapes aired showed Capitol Police officers walking alongside Jacob Chansley, who is currently serving a 41-month sentence after pleading guilty to an obstruction charge related to the Jan. 6 breach. In the video, Chansley was unarmed and walked past several Capitol police officers.