WASHINGTON — A Texas man charged with participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection will stay in jail pending trial, a judge ruled Thursday, after he made threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a US Capitol Police officer following the riot.
Garret Miller is charged not only with participating in the insurrection and resisting officers at the Capitol but also with making a string of threats in the hours and days that followed. In response to a tweet from Ocasio-Cortez on Jan. 6 about impeaching former president Donald Trump, Miller replied, “Assassinate AOC.” He later sent a series of messages via different social media platforms threatening to lynch the as-yet-unidentified US Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the insurrection.
Miller believed that the officer is Black, according to a new court filing from prosecutors earlier this week, and his messages about the officer included “He’s a prize to be taken” and “He will swing. . . . I had a rope in my bag on that day.” Capitol Police have not disclosed any information about the officer to date.
“We going to get a hold of him and hug his neck with a nice rope,” Miller wrote in a Facebook chat on Jan. 18, according to the government.
Black Capitol Police officers described the racist threats and abuse they faced from the largely white crowd of insurrectionists that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, including repeatedly being called the n-word. Earlier this week, two Black Capitol Police officers filed a civil lawsuit against Trump, arguing he was personally responsible for inciting the riot; both officers sustained physical and emotional injuries, and one “lost count” of how many times he was called racial slurs by rioters, according to the complaint.
Miller has been in custody since he was arrested on Jan. 20, and earlier this month had asked a judge to reconsider a federal magistrate judge’s original detention order and to release him pending trial. At a hearing on Thursday, Miller’s lawyer F. Clinton Broden argued that although Miller’s post-insurrection messages were “troubling,” there were strict release conditions that could ensure the safety of the community, such as placing him on house arrest and 24-hour monitoring. He also noted that Miller wasn’t charged with assaulting police or using weapons during the riot and hadn’t acted on any of his online threats before he was arrested.
US District Judge Carl Nichols denied Miller’s request and ordered him to stay in jail, giving special weight to Miller’s “specifically formulated and articulated plans” to track down and kill a Capitol Police officer. In announcing the decision immediately after hearing arguments, Nichols read aloud some of the threatening messages that the government had quoted in its brief advocating to keep Miller behind bars.
Nichols said that it was true that Miller wasn’t charged with the same level of violence as some people arrested after Jan. 6, but the evidence also showed he wasn’t “suddenly swept up” in the crowd that day. The government presented Facebook messages that Miller sent before Jan. 6 where he discussed bringing tactical gear — including a bulletproof vest and a grappling hook — and guns to DC; there’s no evidence he actually brought firearms to the Capitol and he isn’t charged with that.
The government had also argued that Miller’s messages and conduct after Jan. 6 showed no remorse for participating in the insurrection. When he was arrested, according to court filings, he was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Trump along with the text “Take America Back” and “I Was There, Washington D.C., January 6, 2021.”
The vast majority of people charged with joining the mob of hundreds of Trump supporters who descended on the Capitol have been allowed to go home while their cases are pending. Prosecutors have focused detention fights on cases that involve assaults on police officers, destruction of property, and allegations that people took a leadership role and conspired in advance to commit violence or disrupt Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election.
The US attorney’s office in Washington, which is prosecuting the Jan. 6 cases, faced a recent setback in its efforts to keep some defendants in jail — the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued a decision last week that made it harder for prosecutors to win pretrial detention in cases that don’t involve specific allegations of violent activity and an ongoing threat to the community.
Broden cited that ruling on Thursday, as a number of defendants challenging their detention have done in the days that followed, but it ultimately didn’t help Miller’s case. He did not immediately return a request for comment.