Participants in the January riot at the Capitol are continuing to receive reality checks as they make their way through the serious federal criminal proceedings stemming from their violent targeting of a seat of the U.S. government. Now, federal Judge Emmet Sullivan has shredded the behavior of one particular rioter, Ronald Colton McAbee, who was employed as a sheriff’s deputy in Tennessee when participating in the riot, where he had a part in a selection of the many assaults on the officers who were attempting to defend the Capitol that day. McAbee even had a “Sheriff” patch on the vest he was wearing during the violence.
Sullivan condemned McAbee’s behavior during a hearing to consider whether or not to hold him in custody ahead of his trial. Generally, defendants who perpetrated violence at the Capitol have seemed more likely to be ordered to jail ahead of their trials. A lawyer for McAbee has downplayed his client’s actions, insisting, for example, that he was actually offering help to one officer at the Capitol — but Sullivan said that it “appears clearly to this court” that one particular video depicted McAbee “pulling an officer into the violent mob,” as summarized by HuffPost. The judge added that McAbee’s wearing of a “Sheriff” patch at the Capitol was “outrageous,” and he also said that footage showing McAbee’s assaults on officers defending the Capitol was “disturbing.”
Sullivan added as follows, discussing the question of whether McAbee would truly abide by any conditions of a pre-trial release from custody:
‘[McAbee has] raised his right hand, probably put his left hand on the Bible, more than once and swore to administer justice… If he didn’t do that on January 6, how can the court take any comfort in knowing that he will abide by the court’s directives to do certain things going forward?’
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benet Kearney had a similar perspective, adding the following:
‘Frankly, this is a defendant who has taken oaths before. He swore oaths in multiple sheriffs’ offices that he would uphold the law… This is someone who uses his badge and authority when it works for him, and disregards it when it does not.’
Kearney also observed that McAbee “saw no conflict between his oath to uphold the law and abide by the law and what he did on January 6.” It’s not immediately clear when Sullivan might issue a decision on whether to hold McAbee in custody until his trial. For now, McAbee is facing federal criminal charges including assaulting officers and committing disorderly conduct in a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon (McAbee wielded a baton while on the Capitol grounds).