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Prosecutors can use the words riot, mob and breach at next week’s trial of a Missouri locksmith who they say invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6 dressed as George Washington, a federal judge ruled this week.
At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth rejected Isaac Yoder’s request to prohibit the use of those “inflammatory terms.”
But on Yoder’s request to prevent prosecutors from using the words anti-government or extremist, the judge signaled that the defense would be free to object if the issue came up during the trial and he would issue a ruling at that time.
Yoder, owner of Yoder Lock and Key in Nevada, Missouri, was charged in July 2021 with four misdemeanor counts in connection with the riot. He turned down an offer by the government last year to plead guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building and requested a jury trial. Then he asked for a change of venue to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
After Lamberth denied that request Wednesday, Yoder waived his right to a jury trial and asked for a bench trial. That means Lamberth will conduct the trial and decide the case, which is scheduled to start Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
In his motion regarding the use of what he called inflammatory words at his trial, Yoder said that the government might refer to the protesters as a mob or describe them as rioting, and their political positions may be labeled extremist and anti-government. In addition, Yoder said, their entry into the Capitol might be referred to as a breach, a term that implies their actions were illegal.
“In all of these circumstances, the government will be using inflammatory language,” Yoder’s motion said. “These terms suggest either an assumed crime, or it suggests political opinions that suggest radical or improper views. It is therefore implied, in using these terms, that Isaac Yoder could similarly be improperly associated. This would be unfairly prejudicial...”
The government should instead refer to those at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as the crowd or protesters, not a mob or insurrectionists, the motion said.
“They can be referred to as ‘demonstrating’ or ‘protesting’ and not ‘rioting,’” it said. “The people were ‘Trump supporters’ or ‘protesters’ and not ‘extremists’ or ‘anti-government.’” And, it said, entrance into the Capitol should be called an “entry” and not a “breach.”
The government strongly disagreed.
“In essence, Yoder asks that the Court prevent the government from using language that accurately establishes and describes the defendant’s crimes,” it said in its response. “Because these terms fairly describe the riot, rioters, and Yoder’s conduct that day, this Court should deny the motion.”
The government should not be required “to dilute its language and step gingerly around the defendant’s crimes,” the response said.
“Contrary to the defendant’s insinuations of ‘an assumed crime,’ what took place on January 6, 2021, was in fact a riot involving rioters, and an attack on the United States Capitol, the government of the United States, and American democracy.”
In his unsuccessful motion to move his case from Washington to Missouri, Yoder said that pretrial publicity and a biased jury pool would prevent him from getting a fair trial in D.C.
Media coverage has been “blatantly prejudicial” in Washington, he argued, and the odds would be stacked against him there. For example, his motion said, in the District of Columbia, Joe Biden received 92.15% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election, while Donald Trump got 5.4%.
The portrayal of the Jan. 6 events by the Washington media “has understandably painted a picture of anarchy and chaos,” Yoder said, and focuses on “the more dangerous actors.”
Authorities became aware of Yoder on Feb. 26, 2021, when the FBI received an online tip, according to the probable cause affidavit filed in his case. The tipster said a man named Yoder who worked at a locksmith business in Nevada had stormed the Capitol in a George Washington costume.
FBI agents interviewed Yoder in Joplin on March 16, 2021, the affidavit said, and he admitted entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying he saw barricades and broken windows before going inside. He told agents that he’d gone to the Capitol after attending a pro-Trump rally with family members.
Yoder said that once inside the building, he made his way down a hallway to the Capitol rotunda and saw officers standing next to every statue in the area.
“He described the situation appeared somewhat under control with law enforcement and people standing around,” the affidavit said. “People were using their phones and photographing everything.”
Yoder brought his cellphone and the colonial outfit he wore on Jan. 6 to the interview with FBI agents, the document said. The clothing matched what he was seen wearing on the Capitol Police closed circuit television recordings from that day. A review of the recordings showed that Yoder entered the Capitol at 3:14 p.m. and exited around 3:32 p.m., the document said.
“While inside the Crypt,” it said, “he was observed stopping so people could take his picture.”
In an interview with Newsweek after the riot, Yoder said those who went to the nation’s capital on Jan. 6 were there “to preserve our country.”
“Most of us out there are on the side of the aisle who are the gun owners,” Yoder told Newsweek. “If we had collectively gone there to cause trouble there would have been piles of bodies. We could have leveled things.”