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Capitol rioter asks judge to let him use dating apps while he awaits trial

Thomas Sibick, of Buffalo, New York, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of obstructing Congress on January 6.

WASHINGTON — A New York man asked a federal judge on Christmas to allow him to use dating apps while he awaits trial on multiple felony charges for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot.

The attorney for Thomas Sibick filed a motion on Saturday asking U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson to modify her release conditions for Sibick, who is currently on home incarceration at his parents’ residence in Buffalo, New York.

Sibick is one of multiple rioters now under indictment for the brutal assault on D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone. While others were beating Fanone, repeatedly tasing him and threatening to kill him with his own gun, federal prosecutors say, Sibick took the opportunity to rob him of his badge and radio. Fanone’s badge was later recovered from the spot in Sibick’s back yard where he buried it after returning from D.C. Fanone told WUSA last week he had decided to leave the department and join CNN as an on-air law enforcement analyst.

Sibick was arrested in March and originally ordered held without bond while he awaits trial, but in October, Jackson granted him pretrial release over concerns that the “toxic” conditions in the D.C. Jail were likely to contribute to his further radicalization. Sibick’s attorney, Stephen Brennwald, told Jackson his client had requested to be held in solitary confinement as a way of escaping the “cult-like” group of January 6 defendants being held at the jail’s Correctional Treatment Facility. Jackson ordered Sibick released to the custody of his mother and father, Dr. Eugene Sibick, a former officer with the U.S. Navy who publicly criticized his son’s detention at the “Justice for J6” rally in September and has called him a “political prisoner.”

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As part of her order, Jackson forbade Sibick from social media and from political television programming that could “inflame his thoughts.”

“I’m not going to order that he not watch Fox News; I’m going to order that you turn off the talk shows, period. No MSNBC either,” Jackson told his parents. “I’m trying to make sure it’s a calm environment. And I’m looking to you to make sure of that.”

On Saturday, Brennwald asked Jackson to modify those release conditions to allow Sibick to attend the wake of a friend who’d recently passed and to allow him to use a limited number of websites that would allow him to seek employment as well as “interact with members of the opposite gender for the purpose of establishing a friendship.”

“He is not seeking to use any social media application for any prohibited purpose, such as for political engagement, news reading, or any other activity that would violate not only the letter, but the spirit, of his release conditions,” Brennwald writes in the motion. “He is very grateful to this Court for the chance it took when it released him, and he has no intention of remotely coming close to any line that delineates his activity while on release.”

Both employment and dating are likely to be tricky for Sibick, as Brennwald notes, since he is currently under 24-hour-a-day lockdown at his parents’ home. Any work would have to be remote, Brennwald says, and Sibick acknowledges that he “would be unable to leave his home for the purpose of going to dinner” or other events.

“He does, however, feel the need to establish some sort of connection with someone (if possible, in light of his situation),” Brennwald adds in a footnote.

Sibick faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him: obstruction of an official proceeding. Federal prosecutors have also charged him with robbery, civil disorder, assaulting police and committing an act of physical violence on Capitol grounds.

Sibick’s next court appearance was scheduled for a status conference on January 14. Jackson set a deadline of January 12 to alert her if the government and defense intend to convert that date to a plea agreement hearing. No trial date has yet been set in his case.

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