- A former police officer faces his third trial over the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
- Prosecutors charged Thomas Robertson with buying firearms following his January 6 indictment.
- Robertson will face testimony from another former police officer who struck a plea deal.
Months after his indictment in the Capitol attack, Thomas Robertson wrote on an online gun forum that the Justice Department had taught the accused rioters a lesson — but “definitely not the lesson intended.”
“I learned very well that when you dip your toe in the Rubicon … cross it,” Robertson wrote, according to a court filing on website Gunbroker.com. “Cross it hard and fierce and play for all the marbles.”
Robertson will put that lesson to the test Monday when he goes on trial as the third accused Capitol rioter on the Jan. 6 indictment.
Robertson, a former Rocky Mount, Virginia police officer, was off-duty when he stormed the Capitol with a colleague, Jacob Fracker, on Jan. 6, prosecutors said. Once inside, the two posed in front of a statue of John Stark – a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution – and Fracker flashed his middle finger, according to a court filing.
Both were later fired from the Rocky Mount Police Department.
For federal prosecutors, Robertson’s trial follows back-to-back court victories. In March, it took a jury just hours to find guilty in the first trial related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Later in March, a federal judge found another accused rioter guilty of trespassing on Capitol premises — an offense carrying a maximum sentence of one year in prison — but acquitted him of a separate disorderly conduct charge.
Those convictions coincided with mounting pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for his efforts to nullify the 2020 election.
In recent weeks, the New York Times and Washington Post have reported that the Justice Department’s investigation has expanded to include people involved in planning a pro-Trump rally surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and a push by some former presidents was preceded by allies to promote lists of fake voters.
Robertson’s trial is expected to include testimony from Fracker, who pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to obstruct the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.
As part of his plea deal, Fracker agreed to work with the Justice Department and testify that he and Robertson conspired to bring tactical gear, including gas masks, to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Fracker faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
Authorities released Robertson and Fracker after their arrest in January 2021. But a federal judge returned Robertson to jail in July after the Justice Department presented evidence he had purchased more than 30 firearms while on federal charges. A search of his home had found an M4 rifle, a partially pipe bomb and two detonators used for training grenades.
In court filings requesting his pre-trial detention, prosecutors highlighted Robertson’s previous employment as a police officer and social media posts after Jan. 6 that showed a “sincere commitment to violence.”
Robertson, “holding a position of public trust as a police officer, traveled to the District of Columbia and participated in one of the most inflammatory acts of riots the nation has ever seen,” prosecutors wrote. “He then repeatedly and blatantly flouted the court’s orders not to possess firearms, despite being admonished for violating that condition of his release shortly after his initial arrest.
Judge Christopher Cooper ordered him back to prison and said Robertson likely committed a new offense by having the firearms shipped on his behalf.
Cooper, an Obama commissioner for federal court in Washington, DC, said Robertson also appeared to have tried to disguise the purchase by attaching the “wedding photos” tag to a $3,700 transaction through financial transaction platform Venmo for the firearms .
“The undisputed facts demonstrate a real risk that, if released at this time, Robertson could participate in acts of ideologically motivated violence or provide material support,” Cooper wrote. “His recent social media posts may contain elements of bravado and hyperbole, but they provide evidence that Robertson is sympathetic to calls for violent ‘revolution’ and has been further radicalized by his pending prosecution.”
Cooper will preside over jury selection on Monday. If convicted, Robertson could face years in federal prison.