Capitol riot defendant Will Pope, of Topeka, viewing video in case involving CNN and Fox News

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A surveillance camera photo shows Will Pope, circled in blue, and his brother, Michael Pope, circled in red, in a mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
A surveillance camera photo shows Will Pope, circled in blue, and his brother, Michael Pope, circled in red, in a mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Will Pope, a Topekan facing charges linked to the U.S. Capitol riot, viewed body camera footage Tuesday linked to the case against him, which since March has involved the New York Times, Fox News and CNN.

A federal judge's ruling on Friday cleared Pope to make the trip to gather information regarding the case against him.

Pope arrived Monday in Washington, D.C., he told The Capital-Journal in an email late Tuesday.

"In America we have an adversarial justice system," he said. "This means I have a right to vigorously confront my accusers in court. To do that I need to be able to evaluate the evidence. That's why I'm in D.C."

Charged with 8 counts, Will Pope insists he wasn't violent at Capitol

The criminal complaint that helped result in his being charged alleged Pope was caught on video on Jan. 6, 2021, trying to force his way into the office of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

That's inaccurate, Pope said Wednesday, stressing that a prosecutor acknowledged during a phone call last September that Pope had been "entirely peaceful."

Pope ran unsuccessfully for the Topeka City Council in 2019. Then a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant at Kansas State University, he was in Washington, D.C., with his brother, Michael Pope. Both face eight charges, which remain pending.

Pope is acting as his own attorney, which is also known as being "Pro Se," and being assisted by Washington, D.C.-based standby counsel Nicole Cubbage, whom he said was imposed on him against his will.

Judge Rudolph Contreras defended requirement for standby counsel

Pope sought access to sensitive databases regarding the Capitol riot maintained by the government for purposes of discovery, a pre-trial procedure through which parties involved may obtain evidence from each other.

The arrangement in place calls for discovery materials to be treated differently depending upon the "sensitivity" designations they hold, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras noted in an April 26 court order.

Those rules permit Pope to possess "sensitive" material and to view but not possess "highly sensitive" material.

"While the protective order permits Defendant to view material designated Highly Sensitive, it requires that he do so only under supervision of defense counsel or an attorney, investigator, paralegal, or support staff person employed by defense counsel," Contreras' order said.

Contreras defended that requirement, saying "standby counsel simply acts as a conduit to provide Defendant viewing access to Highly Sensitive material, a role that involves no interference with Defendant’s tactical decisions whatsoever."

Will Pope case also involves former Fox News host Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson was given access to Jan. 6, 2021, surveillance footage at the U.S. Capitol by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California. Carlson was fired by Fox News last month.
Tucker Carlson was given access to Jan. 6, 2021, surveillance footage at the U.S. Capitol by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California. Carlson was fired by Fox News last month.

A sworn affidavit filed March 17 in Pope's case challenged an assertion made that month by then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who aired some of the Jan. 6 surveillance footage and said he had Capitol Police approval to do that.

The video was given exclusively to Carlson by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California. Fox News fired Carlson last month.

As part of an affidavit filed March 17 in Pope's case, Capitol Police general counsel Thomas DiBiase said that after learning Carlson's show had the video, he sought to review every clip it planned to air.

"Of the numerous clips shown during the Tucker Carlson show on March 6 and 7, 2023, I was shown only one clip before it aired, and that clip was from the Sensitive List," DiBiase said in the affidavit. "Since that clip was substantially similar to a clip used in the Impeachment Trial and was publicly available, I approved the use of the clip. The other approximately 40 clips, which were not from the Sensitive List, were never shown to me nor anyone else from the Capitol Police."

CNN and New York Times among those seeking in March to intervene

A media organization called the Press Coalition then sought to intervene in the case, filing a March 28 motion challenging the government's designation of body camera video as "sensitive" or "highly sensitive" and arguing that what the government was doing prevented Pope from "presenting that material to the press and the public."

Some members of that coalition included the companies that own CNN, CBS, ABC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and Wall Street Journal.

The motion to intervene remains pending.

The federal government on April 18 filed a response asking that it be denied while saying its approval "would allow the public dissemination of thousands of hours of video from security cameras inside the U.S. Capitol, thus creating the very dangers to the Capitol’s security that the 'Sensitive' and 'Highly Sensitive' designation seeks to prevent."

Will Pope was frustrated by technological delays

Topekan Will Pope is charged with eight charges related to his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
Topekan Will Pope is charged with eight charges related to his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Contreras' April 26 ruling, which initially denied Pope access to the body camera video in Washington, D.C., noted that Pope complained last December that he was frustrated by technological delays in gaining access to view large volumes of highly sensitive material.

Those delays were due to the fact that Pope lives in Topeka while standby counsel Cubbage, who provided him viewing access through a cloud-based service, was based in Washington, D.C.

Pope identified an attorney about 35 minutes away from his home who could provide him a conference room and supervise him for several hours a week, Contreras said.

But Contreras' order said Pope complained that traveling to and from that office cost him time and money, and suggested those costs were similar to a "Jim Crow era poll tax."

After judge denied request, Will Pope went to Legislative Branch

Contreras on April 26 issued an order denying Pope's motion asking him to modify an existing protective order in the case in a manner that would have included enabling Pope to view the video in Washington, D.C., without his standby counsel being present.

Pope appealed Contreras' ruling on May 3.

His appeal said he had responded to Contreras' ruling by seeking access to the body camera video through the federal government's Legislative Branch, for which a staff member told him an opening was available to allow him to access that video this week in Washington, D.C.

Contreras then granted Pope's request Friday while noting the prosecution hadn't opposed it.

Contreras said in the ruling that he was modifying Pope's conditions of release to enable him between May 6 and 14 to freely travel between Kansas and the District of Columbia for the purpose of viewing that footage "per Defendant's assertion in his motion that he was invited to do so by Congress."

The order also allows for Pope to visit Virginia and Maryland.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, who is prosecuting the case, chose to not take a position on whether Pope should be allowed to make the trip.

He wrote that Pope could already access the materials involved from his supervisory counsel's office in Kansas and that Pope would be under "similar restrictions as are imposed by the protective order during his viewing of the video in Washington, D.C."

'Allowing me to see what the government withheld'

Pope told The Capital-Journal late Tuesday that having direct access to the Capitol footage in Washington, D.C., "is allowing me to see what the government withheld from me in discovery."

Pope had found "quite a bit" earlier even without having full access, he said.

"I've noted in my filings that the government had undercover officers joining the crowd in chants and repeatedly urging and pushing people up the steps to the Capitol," Pope said. "That's just one egregious example of government conduct that's on video."

Pope's current trip "won't solve everything," he added.

"I still don't have access to the government discovery index, which contains more than five million files related to Jan. 6," he said. "Defense counsel have been given that access, but the government has been fighting to prevent me from having equal access as a Pro Se defendant."

Here's what Will Pope said in his request to be allowed to travel

In his request for permission to be permitted to travel to and from Washington, D.C., Pope said his conditions of release ordered him to stay out of that city except for court proceedings, meetings with his attorney or Pretrial Services Agency business.

"Since I am representing myself, and do not have an attorney, this condition essentially prohibits me from conducting necessary legal research in Washington D.C. and burdens my defense," Pope wrote in his appeal. "This condition also interferes with the Legislative Branch giving me access to materials relevant to my case."

Pope's appeal said that Cubbage would be in trial and wouldn't be available to meet him to access CCTV video there. It added that Cubbage just moved to Texas and will be spending less time in Washington, D.C.

"Since meeting with an attorney is currently the only way I can get approval to travel to D.C., and since the attorney who has been forced upon me is unavailable, I must move that these conditions be modified to allow me to travel to Washington D.C. without an attorney so that I can conduct my own defense in my own way as a Pro Se defendant," Pope's appeal said.

Contact Tim Hrenchir at or 785-213-5934.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Topekan Will Pope, charged in U.S. Capitol riot, viewing video in D.C.