Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson has denied a request by Florida Proud Boys member Gabriel Garcia to move his upcoming trial on federal charges related to the Capitol riot out of Washington, D.C., and into the southern part of Florida.
It’s not the first time a Capitol riot defendant tried and failed to get their case moved. Individuals associated with the violent, far-right group known as the Oath Keepers sought to move their case to a particular area in Virginia, but the judge handling their effort — federal Judge Amit Mehta — concluded the defendants simply didn’t show what would’ve been required to actually move the case. The Oath Keepers and Garcia both sought to undercut the idea D.C. residents could constitute an appropriately unbiased jury pool.
Jackson said in Garcia’s case that the defendant’s push to move his upcoming trial was “largely predicated on sweeping, unsupported assertions about a city he does not appear to know or understand.” Garcia used survey data supposedly undercutting the argument D.C. residents could serve as unbiased jurors. Succinctly, the judge added: “None of the surveys support an assumption that any prejudice against this individual defendant is so great that he cannot receive a fair trial in this district; despite his grandiose claims, there is little evidence that D.C. residents know who he is at all.” That’s a sweeping take-down. Garcia originally claimed there to be “an extreme level of prejudice” in the Washington, D.C., area against defendants such as himself.
As reported on this site, the Oath Keepers who unsuccessfully also pushed for a change in the venue for their upcoming trial also employed survey data in their purported defense. Among data presented by the Oath Keepers is a finding that D.C. residents reported they could be “fair and impartial” as jurors at a rate higher than people residing elsewhere, but those responsible for the survey questioned these findings, positing that the results might show D.C. residents are less cognizant of limitations to their own potential impartiality. “But that is at best pure conjecture, and at worst an intentionally contrived theory meant to explain away an unfavorable finding,” Mehta concluded. In Garcia’s case, Jackson shared a quote from the late chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain.
“D.C. is not just a city of dead presidents and cold marble monuments,” Bourdain said in the quote Jackson shared. “The people we see working here on our television screens, in the halls of power, and the plush seats of Sunday morning punditry, often have as little to do with the city itself, and the people who actually live here, as any creatures from another universe. This is a city filled with actual living, breathing, eating Americans. Not vessels for one ideology or another, empty suits and empty ideas. Hard lives, hard struggles, and long roads to get here.” Individuals associated with both the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers face charges of seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol attack. Garcia isn’t one of the individuals associated with his group facing a seditious conspiracy charge; his charges include serious offenses, however, like civil disorder and obstructing an official proceeding.