The owner of a Montco martial arts gym has been charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack
Jim Robinson, a fourth-degree black belt known to students as "Master J," told FBI agents he'd always been trained to render aid to those in need and that's why he joined the mob storming the Capitol.
A Montgomery County gym owner said his martial-arts training led him to join the mob of pro-Trump rioters that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court filings made public this week.
Jim Robinson, 60, of Schwenksville, told FBI agents that as a fourth-degree master black belt in the Korean fighting style of Tang Soo Do, he had always been taught to help people in need of assistance. He said he’d been drawn inside the building by screams and cries of people inside.
But prosecutors say the “aid” he rendered that day included shoving his way through a crowd into the Capitol Rotunda, dismantling a roped security stanchion, and chanting along with his fellow insurrectionists.
He was charged Friday in Washington with federal misdemeanor counts, including knowingly entering a restricted area and illegally demonstrating on Capitol grounds. His arrest makes him the 71st Pennsylvania defendant charged in connection with the Capitol attack — a list that includes former police officers, small-business owners, several members of the Philadelphia Proud Boys, and at least one other gym owner.
Dawn Bancroft, the former owner of Bucks County Elite Fitness in Doylestown, was sentenced to two months’ incarceration last month for participating in the insurrection and filming a video in which she said she’d been looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to “shoot her in the friggin’ brain.”
Like her, roughly half of the Pennsylvania defendants have pleaded guilty, mainly to misdemeanor crimes, while dozens more await trial on more serious charges from attacking police officers to playing a central role in the planning behind the attack.
Robinson declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday. In an email, his attorney, Douglas Dolfman, drew distinctions between his client and those who had been charged with more serious crimes.
“His actions were certainly more as a curious observer than an active participant or destructive individual,” Dolfman said. “He regrets deeply for being caught up in the mob mentality that was occurring and didn’t cause injury to anyone or damage to any property.”
Agents identified Robinson — the owner of King of Prussia-based Robinson’s Martial Arts & Fitness, known to his students as “Master J” — in surveillance footage after receiving a tip from a “confidential human source.” According to charging documents in his case, Robinson admitted during a May 3 meeting with the FBI that he had illegally entered the Capitol building
Dressed in all black with his gray hair pulled back in a ponytail and his face occasionally covered with a black balaclava, Robinson was pictured among a crowd that pushed its way into the Rotunda’s east entrance. Security stills show him spending several minutes inside, pumping his fists in the air, shouting and chanting.
At one point, he was caught on camera removing a velvet rope from a security post meant to keep people out of unauthorized areas and holding it over his head like a trophy.
But Dolfman took issue with several of the details in the FBI complaint, saying that the security footage had no sound and it was impossible to tell -- as agents had claimed whether his client was chanting.
“He was simply following people who were chanting and being loud,” the attorney said.
In his FBI interview, Robinson said he had initially traveled to Washington with three other people from the Philadelphia area to attend former President Donald Trump’s rally but became separated from them as they joined the crowd marching to the Capitol. He maintained that he had entered the building because he had heard screams coming from inside and that he was “sucked into” a mob that pushed its way into the building, the charging documents say.
“According to Robinson, his training in martial arts had taught him that when people need assistance, he should do what he could to help,” the FBI wrote . “Robinson [said he] understood that he was not supposed to be making entry into the Capitol, but he felt he could help people who were crying out.”
Dolfman added Tuesday that while Robinson was inside the building he assisted a lady who had fallen and was being crushed by the crowds.
On his profile page with the American Tang Soo Do Association, Robinson said he began training in the martial art in 1990 after two seasons playing football for a Pottstown team.
His social media accounts feature photos of him in various martial arts poses as well as one in which he is holding an American flag with the logo of the Three Percenters, an antigovernment militia. Other posts are peppered with right-wing posts railing against everything from inflation and U.S. relations with Russia to COVID-19 precautions and vaccines.
If convicted, Robinson faces up to a year incarceration. He remains free pending trial and under orders to stay away from Washington.