4 Convicted in Jan. 6 Capitol West Terrace Tunnel Assaults

After a stipulated trial in front of a federal court, three men accused of attacking police officers during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were found guilty of several felony charges.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that defendants Robert Morss, 29, of Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, Geoffrey William Sills, 31, of Mechanicsville, Virginia, and David Lee Judd, 36, of Carrollton, Texas, were all guilty of impeding an official proceeding.

4 Convicted in Jan. 6 Capitol West Terrace Tunnel Assaults
4 Convicted in Jan. 6 Capitol West Terrace Tunnel Assaults

The Department of Justice issued a press release announcing that Morss and Sills had been found guilty of robbery as well as assault, resisting, or hindering officers with a deadly weapon. In addition to being found guilty of assault, Judd was also found guilty of resisting or obstructing law enforcement.

Prosecutors said the individuals were among the disorderly group of Trump supporters who clashed with police at the entrance to the tunnel on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace.

Prosecutors claim that about 2:00 p.m., Morss joined the crowd on the West Front of the Capitol grounds while wearing a vest designed to carry body armor plates. He engaged the cops in combat and unsuccessfully tried to seize a baton from an officer.

Take a good look around, he allegedly told the officers. We will reclaim the Capitol.

According to the DOJ, Morss then accompanied a group of rioters down to the Lower West Terrace after they had pushed back the police.

He “participated in a heave-ho action in which the rioters rocked against the police line” at 3:03 p.m., the DOJ stated. He stole a riot shield from a police officer and handed it off to fellow rioters in the tunnel. Then, he and the others built a shield wall and kept up the heave-ho. Following this, Morss and a few other rioters climbed through a shattered window. Morss went into an office in the Capitol building, grabbed a chair, and tossed it through a window to the looters on the street below.

The DOJ claims that at at 2:13 p.m., Sills joined the throng at the West Front while wearing black goggles and a black gas mask. As the cops fled, he threw numerous “pole-like things” at them and then followed them down the Lower West Terrace and into the tunnel.

According to the DOJ press release, “he wrested away a police baton from an MPD officer.” A short while later, he came out of the tunnel, holding the baton high above his head. A few minutes later, he reentered the tunnel and joined the officers waiting there. He then aimed a strobe light at the police line, confusing the officers there. At least two police officers were hurt by baton blows delivered by Sills.

The DOJ claims that at around 2:43 p.m., Judd was among the gathering on the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol grounds.

The DOJ claims that within 15 minutes, Judd was at the tunnel’s entrance, waving other protesters through. Even he got in on the heave-ho against the police line. Then, Judd took a position outside the tunnel and began taking police riot shields from rioters within the tunnel, passing them on to other rioters.

Prosecutors say that at 3:07 p.m., Judd went into the tunnel, ignited what looked like a firecracker, and threw it at the police line.

There is a maximum 20-year prison sentence for each of the accusations of obstruction and assaulting, resisting, or hindering officers with a deadly weapon. If convicted of assault without a deadly weapon, the maximum term is eight years in prison, while the maximum for robbery is fifteen.

The sentencing dates for Sills, Morss, and Judd have been set for November 18, January 6, and February 27, respectively.

Defendants Tristan Chandler Stevens, Patrick McCaughey, and David Mehaffie, including Morss, have won the right to a bench trial in front of McFadden. On August 29th, that trial was scheduled to begin. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, Morss decided to move on with a stipulated trial, in which both the prosecution and the defense agree on the facts of the case.

A person convicted in a stipulated trial may be able to appeal, unlike in the case of a plea bargain, where the defendant often waives his or her right to appeal save in certain situations.

Former federal prosecutor Michael Harwin told Law&Crime that “Stipulated cases are fairly infrequent.” According to Harwin, the procedures differ by country; some courts will let a person plead guilty while retaining their right to appeal, while others would not.

Strategically, “the value [for a defendant] is often to protect appeal rights while trying to receive ‘credit’ for sparing the prosecution and court time for going through a full trial on contested facts, when there actually aren’t any,” said Harwin, who is not involved in the case. According to Harwin, a guilty verdict is a “major step” in ensuring that justice has been done on the part of the prosecution.

The final step, Harwin said, is to make sure the penalty fits the offense. We shall wait and see whether that occurs.

Morss and Sills have protected their right to appeal, according to their attorneys.

McFadden, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, has a mixed record of convicting and acquitting Jan. 6 defendants. So far, he is the first judge in Washington, D.C. to have totally or partially acquitted a suspect in a Capitol Hill breach case. A guy who was carrying a Confederate flag and his son were found guilty of criminal obstruction, trespassing, and disorderly behavior by him in June.