A Washington, D.C., magistrate judge ordered on Friday that Taylor Taranto, a citizen of Washington state who was arrested on Thursday near former President Barack Obama’s residence with firearms and ammunition in his vehicle, will remain in jail until his hearing next week.
Law enforcement authorities told CBS News that on Thursday, Taranto was arrested as a fugitive from justice when U.S. Secret Service agents spotted him within a few blocks of Obama’s mansion. He was captured before he could have entered a secure area near the former president’s residence.
The 37-year-old Taranto is being charged with illegal entrance into the Capitol building, disorderly behavior, and two other misdemeanors related to the attack on the Capitol on January 6. Prosecutors testified in court on Friday that Taranto had once been a part of a group that held vigils outside the Washington, D.C. jail in favor of the incarcerated Jan. 6 defendants but was no longer a part of that group.
A protest organizer told CBS News earlier this month that Taranto was “asked to leave” due to wrongdoing in the area. On Thursday, police arrested Taranto and found two firearms, 400 rounds of ammunition, and a machete in his van. Although no explosives were found, various investigators told CBS News that they had identified ingredients that might be used to make bombs.
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A senior law enforcement officer said that Taranto camped out in his van near the D.C. jail where many of the January 6 defendants are being housed for a couple of months before being arrested. On January 6, 2021, investigators claim, Taranto attended a rally near the Washington Monument and then moved toward the Capitol, where he entered through a door that had been breached by rioters.
This information was previously secret and has now been made public. According to court documents, he made his way into the building and into the Speaker’s foyer shortly before Ashli Babbit was shot and died.
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Prosecutors claim that Taranto and David Walls-Kaufman, a confessed member of the mob on January 6, “scuffled” with officers after the shooting before being escorted out of the Capitol. He allegedly stayed on Capitol grounds after leaving the building and engaged in a fight with another rioter, “using his cane to fend them off,” according to the charges against him.
Former Washington, DC police officer Jeffrey Smith, who reacted to the Capitol breach, committed himself days later, and the complaint claims that Taranto and Kaufman were at least partially responsible for his death. Taranto denied any wrongdoing and explained his entry into the premises by saying he was a journalist with legitimate business there.
According to court documents, investigators claim he was employed as an engineer but claim to have no evidence of his media employment. During the incident, Taranto can be heard saying, “So we’re in the Capitol…we just stormed it,” according to a social media video recovered by authorities.
Court documents claim that he afterwards made an appearance on a live stream forum where he discussed the events on January 6 and revealed his identity in front of the camera. On Friday, Taranto appeared in court wearing a t-shirt and shorts and responded briefly to the court’s queries.
Because the defendant has been living in his vehicle since moving to Washington, D.C., the prosecution has requested that Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey (who appeared electronically) detain him pending a detention hearing. Federal prosecutors said on Friday that they have video of Taranto broadcasting himself near a school in Maryland, with the intention of “sending a shockwave” to the state’s Democratic congressman, Jamie Raskin.
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To avoid arrest, Taranto’s public lawyer informed the judge that Taranto’s wife, who currently resides in Washington state, was willing to electronically address the court. The defense suggested that Taranto could avoid detention by moving in with his in-laws in Connecticut. Although Taranto has served his country honorably and has no criminal history, Judge Harvey has ordered that he be imprisoned until his next hearing next week.
The court also stated that he had “some concerns about [Taranto’s] mental stability,” which was another point of contention for the defense. Although Harvey implied more charges could be made, he did remind prosecutors that none of their most recent complaints concerning Taranto’s behavior are included in the formal complaint.
“Right now, he’s charged with offenses from years ago,” the judge told the government. “You’ll be busy, I’m sure.” The arraignment of Taranto has not occurred.
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