Capitol riot suspect arrested near Obama’s home will remain jailed until trial, judge rules
Jul 12, 2023, 9:55 AM | Updated: 12:36 pm
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man charged in the arrested near former President Barack Obama’s Washington home will remain in jail while he awaits trial, a federal magistrate judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui agreed with federal prosecutors that Taylor Taranto represents a danger to the community if he is released. Taranto’s lawyer said the judge’s decision will be appealed.
Taranto was arrested June 29 after prosecutors say he showed up in Obama’s neighborhood on the same day that former President Donald Trump posted on his social media platform what he claimed was Obama’s home address.
Prosecutors detailed a litany of what they said were examples of Taranto’s erratic behavior before his arrest, including threatening statements about House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and claims on his YouTube livestream that he intended to blow up the National Institute of Standards and Technology in suburban Maryland.
Taranto, 37, is charged with misdemeanor offenses in the Capitol riot. Prosecutors say he joined the crush of people who broke into the building and he made his way to the entrance of the Speaker’s Lobby outside the House chamber. Prosecutors have indicated they could bring additional charges.
In court papers urging Taranto’s release from jail, his lawyer wrote that Taranto had a “stable home in Washington state, a loving wife and family, and is connected to mental health services there.”
Taranto, a Navy veteran experienced “significant trauma” from serving in Iraq, public defender Kathryn Guevara told the judge. She said Taranto was driving a combat vehicle in a convoy that was hit by enemy missiles.
“He witnessed people perish and experienced and witnessed extreme carnage,” Guevara said.
The judge expressed sympathy for Taranto, saying he deserved to get more help coping with the toll of his military service, and praised him for seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“At every turn, it seems you get let down. And that’s not fair,” Faruqui said.
Taranto’s lawyer said that her client was talking about tunnels near Obama’s home “in a joking manner” because the subject has been fodder for conspiracy theories. She said in court papers that comments he made about getting the “the shot” or “angle” while near Obama’s house were only in reference to the livestream video he was taking at the time.
Guevara said in court that Taranto was attacked and injured on Tuesday by other inmates in the wing of the Washington jail where Jan. 6 defendants are detained while awaiting trial. She did not elaborate on the circumstances of the attack.
Prosecutors said that on the day he was arrested, Taranto reposted a Truth Social post from Trump containing what Trump claimed was Obama’s home address. In a post on Telegram, Taranto wrote: “We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s.” That’s a reference to John Podesta, the former chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.
While livestreaming on YouTube in the neighborhood, Taranto told followers that he was looking for “entrance points,” was going to find a way to the “tunnels underneath their houses” and wanted to get a “good angle on a shot,” according to the detention memo. Officials said he was spotted by law enforcement a few blocks from Obama’s home and fled, though he was chased by Secret Service officers.
Prosecutors say Taranto’s wife told investigators that he had come to Washington because of McCarthy’s offer earlier this year to produce unseen video of the Jan. 6 attack.
Since then, prosecutors said, Taranto has been active online, posting a Facebook video of him in the Capitol on the day of the riot and endorsing a conspiracy theory that the death of Ashli Babbitt — who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she began to climb through the broken part of a door leading into the Speaker’s Lobby — was a hoax.
The FBI had been monitoring Taranto’s online activities because of his involvement in the riot. The bureau stepped up efforts to find him after he asserted on his YouTube livestream on June 28 that he was in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on a “one-way mission” and intended to blow up his van at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
In the livestream, he also made “ominous comments” about McCarthy, saying: “Coming at you McCarthy. Can’t stop what’s coming. Nothing can stop what’s coming,” prosecutors wrote.
Richer reported from Boston.