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An Alleged Capitol Rioter Will Return To Jail For Streaming Conspiracy Theory Content

Douglas Jensen was caught in his garage with an iPhone less than a month after a judge released him from jail on the condition he couldn’t go online.

Posted on September 2, 2021, at 12:44 p.m. ET

The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Douglas Jensen, an Iowa man charged with leading a mob that chased US Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman on Jan. 6, is going back to jail after he was caught violating his release conditions by accessing the internet — specifically to stream election fraud conspiracy theory content.

US District Judge Timothy Kelly signaled that it was an easy call for him to return Jensen to federal custody. Shortly before announcing the decision at a hearing on Thursday, the judge said he had been explicit that Jensen could not go online and Jensen promptly disobeyed that. Kelly seemed especially troubled that a court officer caught Jensen in the act of violating his release conditions the very first time they made an unannounced visit at his house to check on his compliance.

Jensen had been in jail since his arrest a few days after the Jan. 6 insurrection. He didn’t fight incarceration at first, but after six months in the DC Jail argued that he should be allowed to go home. Jensen’s lawyer told the judge at the time that Jensen, a self-described follower of the QAnon collective delusion, understood he’d been “deceived” by internet-fueled conspiracy theories. That clearly wasn’t the case, Kelly said, which was a big problem because cutting off access to that content was at the heart of the judge’s decision to let Jensen go home.

“He has not experienced the transformation that his lawyer previously described,” Kelly said.

Here’s the scary moment when protesters initially got into the building from the first floor and made their way outside Senate chamber.

Twitter: @igorbobic

Jensen will now go back to jail; where exactly remains to be seen, his lawyer wants him to stay in Iowa as opposed to going back to the DC Jail, but it’s up to the US Marshals Service, not the judge. Assistant US Attorney Hava Mirell said that the government extended a plea offer to Jensen in May and that she was still discussing that with his lawyer. He’s due back in court on Sept. 24 to update the judge on where his case stands.

Kelly previously ruled on July 13 that Jensen could go home. He was placed on home incarceration, the strict type of pretrial release, and barred from accessing the internet or using any internet-enabled devices. His wife was supposed to serve as a third-party custodian to make sure he was following the rules, and any family members he lived with were supposed to password-protect their devices so he couldn’t use them.

Just over a month later, the government asked the judge to place him back behind bars. During the unannounced home check, Jensen was found in his garage listening to news on a WiFi-connected iPhone through the video platform Rumble. The government didn’t say what Jensen was listening to but included a link to a Washington Post article that described how the site was popular among conservatives.

Jensen admitted to the court officer that he’d also spent two days watching a “cyber symposium” hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the most prominent proponents of election fraud conspiracy theories. He also explained that his wife had left the iPhone on for him when she went to work and that he knew the password because it had been reset to the factory default, which was a string of zeros.

Mirell argued during Thursday’s hearing that Jensen’s conduct in the Capitol — the encounter with Goodman as well as a second, later confrontation with officers trying to get rioters to leave the Rotunda — plus his violation of the judge’s conditions showed he could not be trusted to obey court orders going forward on his own.

“His violations were swift and blatant,” Mirell said. “Mr. Jensen does not deserve a second chance. This is not equivalent to a drug relapse, there is no chemical dependency here.”

Mirell gave the judge a 31-second clip of Capitol surveillance footage that showed the Rotunda incident, arguing it was more evidence of Jensen’s inability to obey law enforcement. The video is under seal for now; prosecutors have argued to keep some Jan. 6 surveillance footage secret, citing security concerns. Jensen’s lawyer said he opposed keeping it out of the public eye since he disagreed with the government’s interpretation of what it showed. Kelly said the video wasn’t a big factor in his decision, although he noted that, at a minimum, it showed Jensen stayed in the Capitol for a while after his encounter with Goodman.

Jensen admitted that he violated his release conditions, but his lawyer, Christopher Davis, argued to the judge that he should get another chance, insisting that he wasn’t a danger to the community; he did describe his client’s affinity for conspiracy theory content as being like a “compulsion,” however. Davis acknowledged that Jensen had convinced his wife that it was OK for her to give him access to the iPhone when it was not allowed, but said the rules would be “crystal clear” if he were allowed to go home. He also noted there was no indication that Jensen had violated any other release conditions so far.

“He is not a bumbling idiot, in any sense of the word,” Davis said.

None of Davis's arguments persuaded Kelly to let Jensen go home.

“He’s simply unable to follow the conditions I’ve set out,” the judge said.

Davis did not immediately return a request for comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.