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Judge considers releasing an alleged Jan. 6 rioter arrested near Obama's home

A federal judge is considering whether to detain a man accused in the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol who was arrested last week, allegedly looking for the Obama home.
A federal judge is considering whether to detain a man accused in the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol who was arrested last week, allegedly looking for the Obama home.

Federal prosecutors told a judge Thursday they are considering additional charges against an accused January 6 rioter arrested while looking for the Washington, D.C., residence of former President Barack Obama last week.

The Justice Department is seeking to hold Taylor Franklin Taranto in custody pending trial. In court papers, prosecutors said they believe Taranto is a flight risk because he has been living in his van, which contained a machete, two firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition on the day of his arrest. That van has since been impounded.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui signaled he would rule on the government's request for detention at a hearing on July 12. But the judge said he's wrestling with the decision because Taranto, a U.S. Navy veteran, is currently charged only with four misdemeanors, including knowingly entering the U.S. Capitol and engaging in disorderly conduct there more than two years ago.

Authorities filed those charges last week, around the same time they said Taranto began to livestream threats against a series of prominent people in Washington. Among other things, Taranto filmed himself saying he was in Obama's neighborhood in the hunt for "entrance points" and he "wanted to get a good angle on a shot."

Prosecutors said Taranto's wife told them he came to D.C. in June after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., offered to release video footage from the storming of the Capitol. Taranto soon became a regular attendee at a protest site near the D.C. Jail where supporters of accused rioters gather, a place where some protesters said they grew uneasy about him and his mental health.

In recent weeks, authorities said, Taranto used his YouTube channel to stream threats against a prominent Democratic congressman, a federal research facility, and the House speaker.

Then, on June 29, former President Donald Trump posted what he claimed was the address of his predecessor, Obama, on a social media platform. Taranto allegedly reposted the address and then headed near there.

Taranto's public defender argued the DOJ has not met its high burden to detain him. The Bail Reform Act requires defendants to be released based on the "least restrictive further conditions" or combination of conditions that will ensure their presence at trial.

"Mr. Taranto has zero criminal history, a stable home in Washington state, a loving wife and family, and is connected to mental health services there," wrote assistant federal public defender Kathryn D'Adamo Guevara.

Guevara has asked the court to send Taranto home to the Seattle area where he will have support from his wife and mental health service providers.

It's not clear when prosecutors might seek to add new charges against him or how serious they might be.

"Taranto has strongly indicated his anti-government stance and has openly stated that he does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the United States Constitution or the Constitution of the State of Washington, despite repeatedly invoking the 'First Amendment' and 'free speech' to justify his conduct," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Ethen.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.
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