Joshua Macias can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
In November 2020, Macias, the cofounder of Vets for Trump, was arrested after he and a security guard with a history of unhinged internet postings drove from Virginia to Philadelphia with guns and ammunition, apparently in response to conspiracy theories about a rigged presidential election.
The pair, who traveled in a Hummer with QAnon stickers on it, were arrested near the Convention Center, where votes were being tallied. Police recovered handguns, an AR-15-style rifle, 160 rounds of ammo, a lock-picking kit, and a samurai sword.
Investigators later found a text message referring to a plan to raid “a truckload of fake ballots,” prosecutors have said, and Macias was seen on video just before his arrest referring to “ballot stuffers” in “back rooms.”
Macias, 43, and alleged conspirator Antonio LaMotta, 63, await trial on those weapons- and election-related charges.
But Macias, a vocal supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement that was fueled by then-President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voting irregularities, has repeatedly been in danger of violating his bail conditions, due to his social media and political activity, Philadelphia prosecutors have argued in court — so far unsuccessfully.
Now, there is additional evidence.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office has filed a motion seeking to have Macias held in contempt of court, due to new information that has surfaced about Jan. 6, 2021. That includes recent federal indictments, and documentary footage showing Macias meeting with Enrique Tarrio, the then-leader of the Proud Boys, in an underground parking garage the evening before the Capitol siege.
Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys — including Zach Rehl, leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the far-right group — are facing seditious conspiracy charges stemming from the riot.
Also in attendance at the meeting with Macias and Tarrio: Stewart Rhodes, head of the Oath Keepers militant group. He, too, has been charged with sedition.
At a news conference Monday, Krasner called the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers the “tip of the spear” in the riot, and said it was significant that they chose to meet secretly with Macias, whom he described as “their confidante.”
“We need to radically reconsider whether Joshua Macias is a midsize fish or a shark. I say he is a shark,” Krasner said. “He has proven how dangerous he can be. … This is a startling revelation.”
Macias has not been charged in connection with the insurrection, but he was livestreaming from outside the Capitol, describing then-Vice President Mike Pence as “a Benedict Arnold” and saying “the domestic enemies are here,” as he pointed at the building.
Macias’ attorney, William Brennan, had no comment Monday. He has previously argued in court that prosecutors were attempting to criminalize legitimate political activity.
“He certainly is not on the same side politically as the district attorney, but to charge him criminally for exercising his right of free assembly and right of free speech, that’s a very dangerous thing,” Brennan said in January 2021 after a court hearing for Macias.
As for the original charges in November 2020 in Philadelphia, Krasner has argued that it should be treated as a “mass shooting that was narrowly averted.” Macias and LaMotta maintain their innocence.
The day after their arrest, Vladimir Lemets, executive director of Vets for Trump, told The Inquirer that he was puzzled by the case. He described Macias and LaMotta as “nonhostile guys” who had driven to Philadelphia only to monitor how the ballots were being counted.
“They just went up there to see if they could be of any assistance,” Lemets said, “and scope out what’s happening.”
But Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, which oversees elections in the city, said she believes police thwarted a mass shooting by intercepting Macias and LaMotta as the votes were being counted. She joined Krasner on Monday and questioned whether the defendants had planned to use the lock-picking kit to enter the Convention Center through a back entrance.
“I and my staff, we know what Macias and LaMotta were attempting to do that night,” Deeley said. “We refer to them as, ‘Those people who tried to kill us.’ How are these people still on the street?”