KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for the purported leader of the Kansas City cell of the Proud Boys blamed former President Donald Trump for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, telling a federal magistrate judge that the five weeks since then “have broken the fever dream.”
William Chrestman, an Army veteran and union sheet metal worker from Olathe, Kansas, remains in custody as the judge weighs whether to release him before his trial. He is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and other charges stemming from the melee.
Prosecutors are seeking to keep him in custody, arguing that he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. Defense attorneys contend Chrestman won’t flee and argue that he poses no danger since he and the world around him has changed much since that day. They contend his arrest has chastened, rather than emboldened him.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Judge James O’Hara said at a detention hearing Wednesday that he would rule within a few days on whether to release Chrestman pending trial, the Kansas City Star reported.
“It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” defense attorneys argued.
His attorneys contended in a court filing that the Proud Boys watched as their “pro-America, pro capitalism and pro-Trump” rhetorical strategy allowed them into the Republican mainstream. They watched as law enforcement attacked Black Lives Matter and anti-fascism protestors, but escorted Proud Boys and their allies to safety. They watched as their leader, Enrique Tarrio, was named Florida state director of Latinos for Trump, they wrote.
The defense also argued that the Trump campaign was well aware of the organized participation of Proud Boys rallies merging into Trump events. When then-President Trump was given an opportunity to disavow them during a presidential debate, Trump instead told them to “stand back and stand by” — something they understood as “a call to arms and preparedness.”
“The five weeks since January 6 have broken the fever dream. The Proud Boys are ‘radioactive now.’ Any air of respectability is gone,” the defense lawyers wrote. “The Proud Boys are in ‘disarray, as state chapters disavow the group’s chairman and leaders bicker in public and in private about what direction to take the Proud Boys in.”