Two Donald Trump supporters arrested in November on weapons charges near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, while votes from the presidential election were being counted inside, were back in custody Friday after a Philadelphia judge increased their bail for attending the Jan. 6 deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
During a combative hearing at the Stout Center for Criminal Justice in Center City, which included contempt charges against defense attorney William J. Brennan, no evidence was presented that the defendants, Joshua Macias and Antonio LaMotta, entered the Capitol building along with thousands who battled with law enforcement and ransacked offices.
But Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrock presented video evidence that the two Virginia men were on the Capitol grounds that Wednesday, and argued they violated their previous bail conditions in Philadelphia. Macias, 42, was shown comparing then-Vice President Mike Pence to an 18th-century traitor, as LaMotta, 61, served as his bodyguard, the prosecutor said.
Common Pleas Court Judge Crystal Bryant-Powell increased Macias’ original $750,000 bail by $100,000, and LaMotta’s $750,000 bail by $15,000. She then ordered the men jailed until they pay 10% of the new increases — $10,000 for Macias, $1,500 for LaMotta.
Brennan, who represents Macias, and defense attorney Lauren A. Wimmer, who represents LaMotta, argued that their clients broke no laws just by being on the Capitol grounds, have not been arrested by federal authorities, and therefore their bail in connection with the Philadelphia weapons cases should not be increased.
But Wellbrock, who sought to have both defendants’ bail revoked, argued that they had traveled to Washington to help incite the riot, during which five people died, including a Capitol Police officer. To support that claim, Wellbrock cited Macias’ calling Pence “a Benedict Arnold,” and saying “the Insurrection Act is now” and “The domestic enemies are here,” as he pointed to the Capitol.
“The argument I said in court is that condition of bail is not to commit additional crime, and my argument is that they were down there inciting a riot,” Wellbrock said after the hearing.
Wimmer and Brennan disagreed.
“There is no crime committed here by Mr. LaMotta. He is clearly just standing there,” said Wimmer, who told the judge her client is a law-abiding citizen who has been married 19 years, and has two teenage children and an elderly mother for whom he is the primary caregiver.
“The government is basically asking your honor to deprive my client of liberty for going to the nation’s capital and speaking at an assembly,” said Brennan, whose verbal sparring with Bryant-Powell resulted in her scheduling a Feb. 4 hearing during which Brennan will have to show why he should not be held in contempt of court.
Bryant-Powell, who was sworn in as a judge on the day of the Capitol riot, repeatedly accused Brennan of being disrespectful.
“Mr. Brennan, you’re raising your voice, and you’re pointing at the court. I think we have a problem,” the judge said. Brennan, a prominent Philadelphia attorney who’s often animated in the courtroom,, denied he was being disrespectful.
“I think I’ve been restrained,” he said. “I’m advocating, your honor. I’ve been doing this for 33 years.”
During an interview after the hearing, Brennan reiterated that he meant no disrespect to Bryant-Powell, whom he said he had never met. He said while he disagrees with the things his client said at the Capitol, he believes he had the right to say them. “It’s a scary day when we lose our liberty over words or exercising our right to assemble,” Brennan said.
Prosecutors allege that on Nov. 5, Macias and LaMotta, both of Chesapeake, Va., drove to Philadelphia in a Hummer SUV displaying the insignia of the QAnon conspiracy movement, with handguns, an AR-15-style rifle, 160 rounds of ammunition, and a samurai sword to interfere in the vote-counting process.
Last week, another Philadelphia judge dropped two gun-possession charges against Macias, a cofounder of Vets for Trump, because he has a gun permit in Virginia. The District Attorney’s Office has said it will refile those charges during a Feb. 8 hearing. Macias is currently charged with interfering with an election, conspiracy, and hindering performance of duty.
LaMotta faces the same charges as Macias, as well as two gun-possession charges. At last week’s hearing, the judge barred both defendants from attending rallies or using social media while their cases are pending.