A federal judge overseeing several cases of defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol ordered a defendant who thought he was on a mission from God released from jail on Thursday.
Trump supporter Joshua Black, U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson ruled, will be subject to home confinement in Alabama (with exceptions for work, church and medical and legal appointments), GPS location monitoring, and would have to surrender all firearms in his residence.
Jackson said she struggled with whether to keep Black detained, and said it was a very close call. But ultimately she said the government had failed to prove that there were no conditions or combination of conditions that would assure the safety of the community until trial, as required under the Bail Reform Act.
Jackson told Black, who said that “the Lord” wanted him to “plead the blood of Jesus” inside the U.S. Capitol, that she wouldn’t hesitate to lock him back up if he violated any of his conditions of release.
“If you think God wants you to do something to violate the court order, and you do it, I will revoke your bond,” Jackson said.
The government argued that Black’s conduct on Jan. 6 was “harrowing and repugnant” and that he “zealously participated in an infamous attempt to subvert the Nation’s democratic process based on his own misguided, false belief that the presidential election, and America, had been ‘stolen’ and that the Constitution allowed him to ‘abolish’ a ‘corrupt’ or ‘crooked’ government.”
Black, the government argued, “was not simply an opportunistic or moderate participant in the Capitol attack,” and was in fact “at the vanguard of the mob” by his own admission. Black’s “belief that God commanded him to act contrary to his restrained instincts” suggests he “is willing to break the law — including participating in a violent breach of the seat of government and the disruption of the constitutional transfer of power — if he believes it is God’s will,” the government argued. The government argued that Black “presents an identified and articulable ongoing threat to others and the community,” echoing language in a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that has allowed many Capitol insurrectionists to be released before trial.
Black’s defense lawyer wrote that his client was not a risk of flight nor a danger to the community, that he treated officers with “respect and deference,” and that he cooperated with the FBI. Black, his lawyer wrote, “advises that he will abide by whatever conditions of release the Court imposes and that, not only will he follow any Order of the Court, but that, God would never ask him to breach a promise that he made to someone including, most importantly in this context, the Court.”
Judge Jackson told Black on Thursday that he was “going back to D.C. jail” if he violated any terms of his release “even if you assure me, with all sincerity, that that after much prayer and contemplation, that the Lord wanted you to do whatever you did.” Black said that she “will not hesitate” to bring Black back if there’s any violations of his conditions of release.
Jackson made clear that Black’s religious and political beliefs were not a factor in her ruling on detention, but that his belief that he was acting in accordance with what God told him to weighed in favor or detention.
“How you understand the Lord’s will and how God might judge you in the hereafter is not my department. Your relationship with God is between you and your pastor and God,” Jackson said. “My concern is the here and now, and how you behave.”
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