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Capitol riot lawyer asks to withdraw over 'break down in attorney-client relationship'

An attorney for Daniel Caldwell, of Texas, says he and his client have a "philosophical disagreement" over the direction of the case.

WASHINGTON — A lawyer for a Texas man who bragged on video about pepper spraying more than a dozen officers on January 6 is asking to withdraw from the case, telling a judge there’s been a “break down in the attorney-client relationship.”

John Hunter Smith, an attorney for Wynne & Smith in Sherman, Texas, filed a motion Thursday asking U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to allow him to withdraw from representing Daniel Caldwell in an ongoing January 6 criminal case against him.

Caldwell was arrested in February and indicted in March on seven counts, including assaulting police with a dangerous weapon and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds. According to charging documents, public video from the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 shows Caldwell using a can of chemical irritant to assault police who were attempting to hold protesters back on the Capitol steps.

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Caldwell retained Smith as legal counsel in late March. Last week, however, Smith says Caldwell asked him to file a motion to withdraw as his attorney. According to Smith, he and Caldwell don’t see eye-to-eye on how to respond to a plea agreement offered by the government.

“We have discussed various courses of action associated with his case,” Smith wrote in his motion Thursday. “Counsel and the defendant respectfully have a philosophical disagreement on the direction of his case.”

Smith said Caldwell and his family have also exhausted their financial resources and are unable to continue with retained counsel. He is asking Kollar-Kotelly to appoint a public defender on Smith’s behalf.

The FBI was able to identify Caldwell in part due to information from acquaintances who played Airsoft Military Simulation (a “live-action, in person simulation of armed conflict scenarios conducted by civilians that involve airsoft plastic projectiles launched by replica weapons,” according to the DOJ) with him. In statements to the FBI, at least one witness allegedly described Caldwell as a “huge white supremacist” and a “complete wacko” and said he had repeatedly brought real firearms to the airsoft course and had to be told to return it to his vehicle.

Caldwell has been in federal custody since his arrest in February. In a memorandum arguing for his detention, the government said Caldwell bragged in a video obtained by investigators that he had pepper sprayed as many as 15 officers. The DOJ wrote that Caldwell showed a “complete lack of respect for the role of law enforcement, in which officers were attempting to stymie further chaos on the scene and Caldwell responded with further violence and anger.”

The government also pointed to three previous convictions, including two for DUI – one in which, during his arrest, Caldwell broke a hospital bed while being restrained for a blood draw – and a 2008 conviction for assaulting his now ex-wife. In a detention hearing, Caldwell’s ex-wife said he had slammed her on a table and then ripped the phone out of the wall to prevent her from calling 911.

Smith’s motion to withdraw is a refiling of one denied by Kollar-Kotelly last week over failure to comply with certain rules. She also denied a motion to continue the plea deadline at the same time. Smith had asked for additional time for Caldwell’s new attorney to review the plea offer with him once he is allowed to withdraw.

As of Friday morning, Kollar-Kotelly had not yet responded to Smith’s latest motion.

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