DC judge orders former Rocky Mount officer to remain in jail

Sergeant Thomas Robertson, right, and Officer Jacob Fracker, left, posted this photograph of...
Sergeant Thomas Robertson, right, and Officer Jacob Fracker, left, posted this photograph of themselves inside the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 riots to social media.(U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE FOR D.C.)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 3:37 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A District Court Judge in DC has ordered a former Rocky Mount police officer charged in the January 6 Capitol attack to remain in jail until his trial. Thomas Robertson had been out on a conditional release before being taken into custody earlier this month.

Read the judge’s order below this story.

DC Judge Christopher Cooper Wednesday issued an order in response to the prosecution’s recent motion to amend the conditions of Robertson’s release. The government wanted to keep him detained until his trial. Judge Cooper granted the motion.

In the order, Judge Cooper mentions evidence brought forth by prosecutors from the FBI, as mentioned in the Government’s written motions and stated during Robertson’s recent hearing.

He makes note of evidence which FBI agents said shows that in mid-February Robertson emailed people about buying guns and ammunition.

The Judge mentions how both Robertson and his co-defendant Jacob Fracker moved to modify their conditions of release to allow them to have guns to protect themselves. The court withheld judgement while waiting for the defendants to submit written motions and reminded them they had to continue to adhere to the conditions of their release in the meantime. Cooper said neither defendant followed up with a written motion.

The judge makes note of additional FBI evidence which agents say shows that over the next several months, Robertson went shopping on Gunbroker.com. On June 10, agents say Robertson “touted” his pending charges on a Gunbroker.com forum, writing, “I’ve said before. They are trying to teach us a lesson. They have. But its definitely not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest than you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no fly list, have your name smeared and address released by the FBI so every loon in the US can send you hate mail. I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon. . . . cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.”

On June 29, when the FBI conducted its second search of Robertson’s home, agents note that they also spoke with the owner of Tactical Operations, Inc., a Federal Firearms License holder in Roanoke. The owner told agents that Robertson had 34 guns waiting for him to pick up. He also said Robertson had recently visited the store to handle guns, but did not take them off the store’s premises.

On June 30, prosecutors submitted a motion to revoke Roberton’s pretrial release. The Court issued a warrant for Robertson’s arrest and he was taken into custody July 7. He was incarcerated in the Central Virginia Regional Jail until Judge Cooper had him appear physically in his D.C. courtroom following technical difficulties during the first two attempts at a virtual hearing.

Judge Cooper referenced multiple cases for precedent on the questions at hand, including the question of whether there was probable cause to show that Robertson had “shipped” guns without actually touching them. Cooper writes in his order, “Indeed, as the Supreme Court noted in another firearm-control case, the ordinary meaning of the verb “ship” includes having an item shipped by a third party.”

He concluded, therefore, that Robertson could be found to have put the shipping of guns into motion, finding he did violate the terms of his release.

The Judge also noted that while Robertson hasn’t been personally accused of committing violent acts during the Capitol riot on January 6, the evidence shows that he indeed participated, which, the Judge writes, “...posed ‘a grave danger to our democracy’ as well as our national security.”

He goes on to say that since January 6 and after his indictment, Robertson has “expressed pride in his role and enthusiasm for the prospect of future political violence. Robertson thus falls within the category of felony indictees whom Congress reasonably deemed unfit to ship, transport, or receive firearms and ammunition while under indictment.”

Cooper said a reasonable person could infer that Robertson had a sense of guilt when buying the guns and ammunition for delivery to the gun dealer by having the Venmo transactions labeled as “Wedding Photos,” which the court suggests an effort to avoid detection.

The judge also said that Robertson’s history and characteristics do not reassure him that the defendant can be safely released into the community while he waits for trial. Cooper writes, “To his credit, Robertson appears to have served honorably in the United States Army and as a police officer. Case 1:21-cr-00034-CRC Document 37 Filed 07/28/21 Page 11 of 14 12 By all indications, he also has strong family ties, and the Court is not aware of any criminal history before this year. Yet, the Court must also take into account Robertson’s conduct since January 6. Both in the immediate aftermath of the riot and more recently, Robertson has expressed remorselessness and endorsed future political violence.”

The judge also notes that the search that triggered the government’s recent motion was not the first time Robertson violated his release, making note of a previous search of his home. Robertson was arrested January 13 and had an initial appearance with Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou in the Western District of Virginia. The next day, according to Cooper, Judge Ballou issues an order setting the conditions of Robertson’s release, part of which ordered him not to have guns, destructive devises or other dangerous weapons. He was given until January 15 to relocate all firearms in his house. On January 19, Robertson appeared before a judge in the D.C. District Court in which the judge issues another order, with similar conditions as the first order. That same day, agents searched Roberson’s home and found eight guns and “large amounts of ammunition.”

Judge Cooper concluded his order saying the undisputed facts of the case show a “concrete risk that Robertson might participate in or provide material support to acts of ideologically motivated violence if released at this time. His recent social media posts may contain elements of bravado and hyperbole, but they provide evidence that Robertson is sympathetic to calls for a violent “revolution,” Mot. to Revoke Release Order at 2, and has been further radicalized by his pending prosecution, see id. at 14-15.”

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