“There are no allegations that the defendant caused injury to any person. … He has never damaged specific property, “the judge said. “He was the leader of a march to the Capitol. Once they got there, it’s not clear what leadership role the people in the Capitol took at all. … The lack of evidence for his leadership is important here. “
Howell described the question of whether Nordin should be detained as a “close case” and she said she was concerned about his rhetoric, especially his lack of remorse after the Jan. 6 violence.
“These are ominous statements,”
Howell ordered Nordin to be placed under house arrest with GPS surveillance in the Seattle area where he lives. He will be allowed to return to Washington, only for court hearings and, with permission, to meet with his lawyers.
Howell said there was no doubt based on video footage that Nordin had gathered with other members of the Proud Boys in front of the Capitol, cheered them on with a bear as they marched, and entered the Capitol illegally. “He was not just caught in a crowd. He planned in advance, she said.
However, prosecutors say Nordien’s actions, such as talking to another proud boy shortly before breaking a Capitol window, show that he was directing members of the group to commit crimes.
“It was a deliberate act,” said Jason McCullough, an aide to U.S. attorney, adding that Nordin’s repeated call for “1776” rhetoric was not just chatter.
“It wasn’t just an attachment to triangular hats and salty taffeta. “There was an interest in taking violent action,” the prosecutor said.
However, Howell again questioned the strength of the government’s case. “The evidence that the accused directed people to break windows to enter the Capitol is, to say the least, weak,” she said.
The judge said the government may eventually be able to prove that Nordean ordered the violence, perhaps with testimonies from other rebel accused who choose to cooperate, but at the moment the government had little more than theory and its a history of inflammatory conversations and social media posts, which she called “offensive in the end.”
The decision was a blow to prosecutors in one of the most notorious cases since the January 6 uprising. According to the government, Nordin was a senior member of the Proud Boys’ hierarchy – a member of its “council of elders”, according to McCall – and some prosecutors said he was an important driver of the events leading to the Capitol’s forcible takeover.
“With his presence on January 6, Ethan Nordin would command some degree of power,” McCullough said.
The prosecutor repeatedly pointed to Nordin’s associations with other detainees during the riot, such as Dominic Petzola – one of the first to smash the building by smashing a window with a police riot shield – and William Crestman, who is accused of threatening to attack police.
But when pressured by Howell, prosecutors provided no evidence that Nordien had specifically led the violence. They also declined to deny Nordien’s claim that his cell phone was dead for most of Jan. 6, and downplayed the claim that Nordin saw his role as Proud Boys be promoted after the arrest of group leader Enrique Tario.
McCullough stressed that Nordin was “nominated” to receive “military forces” in Tario’s absence, but did not have to be given to them.
Nordean’s defense also challenged a series of factual allegations in the government’s statement to the contrary, including suggestions he was preparing to flee and that he used advanced radio equipment to communicate with other proud boys during the attack.
The indictment alleges that during the riot, Nordien used a radio he had bought from Amazon, but the defense provided records showing that the radio had not been delivered to him until the day after the Capitol raid.
Prosecutors also had difficulty proving that Nordean posed a flight risk based on the discovery of a passport belonging to his wife’s ex-boyfriend. Although the government claims that the passport was found on a dresser in the bedroom, Nordin’s lawyer denied the allegation, noting that his wife regularly kept it in a jewelry box on the couple’s nightstand and that the two men did not look alike.
“The government has repeatedly made factual allegations about Ethan’s actions and then withdrew from them without any support,” said Nordin’s lawyer, Nicholas Smith. “It’s just not there.”
Smith said it was worrying that the government would seek criminal charges based largely on Nordin’s leading role in the march, and suggested the approach was the fault of an association.
“I challenge the government to come up with a single precedent with such a broad theory of aiding and abetting responsibility,” he said. “Marching with a group of people would involve every single person in the crowd for a crime, but the government does not blame everyone in the crowd. … Vague allegations of government return and such things are not a crime of aiding and abetting. “
McCullough revealed earlier in Wednesday’s hearing that a grand jury had indicted Nordin earlier in the day on charges similar to those in a criminal complaint used to arrest him last month. These include obstructing congressional proceedings, assisting and encouraging the confiscation of state property, and lower fees.
Once Nordin has been indicted, his case will be assigned to a random judge for further proceedings. Howell said the government is free to hear this case before this judge, that Nordin is so dangerous that he must be kept in jail while awaiting trial.
“My word may not be the last word on this issue,” she said.