WASHINGTON — A D.C. jury issued a unanimous verdict of guilty on all counts Monday for a former Virginia police officer charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Thomas Robertson was serving as an officer with the Rocky Mount Police Department on Jan. 6 when he and another officer, Jacob Fracker, traveled to D.C. to protest the certification of electoral college votes. In posts online, Robertson said having an election stolen from him was his "red line" and compared his service in the Middle East — where he was deployed as a soldier and then worked as a Department of Defense contractor — to what he anticipated would happen on Jan. 6.
"I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency," Robertson wrote on Facebook. "I’m about to become part of one, and a very effective one.”
Robertson and Fracker were arrested in January 2021. Robertson was indicted on six counts:
- Obstruction of an official proceeding
- Civil disorder
- Entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous weapon
- Disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building
- Violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building
- Tampering with a document or proceeding
Prosecutors told jurors that Robertson spent the weeks before the riot getting himself pumped up online and talking to other officers, including Fracker, about his belief that the 2020 election had been stolen from former President Donald Trump. And his posts didn't stop after Jan. 6, they said. In one on Facebook, Robertson wrote, “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business...The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
Assistant U.S. attorneys Liz Aloi and Risa Berkower told jurors the posts showed Robertson's state of mind, but the reason he was charged with multiple felonies was because he took actual steps to obstruct the joint session of Congress. Those included, they said, wearing a gas mask and wielding a large stick to impede Capitol and D.C. police. Several witnesses testified that Robertson had been trained as a police officer in the use of a baton and that he appeared to be holding the stick in the "port arms" position officers are trained to use.
Defense attorneys argued Robertson needed the stick because of an injury he sustained while in Afghanistan — two character witnesses testified he'd been "blown up" — and said if he was holding it in a defensive posture, it was a reflex from years on the job. And, they argued, he'd only entered the Capitol to "retrieve" the younger Fracker, who he often referred to as "son."
That dynamic made for hours of uncomfortable testimony when Fracker, who accepted a plea offer last month, was called as a key witness in the case.
“Could you tell us how you’re feeling about being here today?” assistant U.S. attorney Risa Berkower asked him.
“I absolutely hate this,” he said. “I never thought it would be like this. I’ve always been on the other side of things. The good guys’ side, so to speak.”
Speaking in quiet, terse sentences, Fracker said Robertson had invited him to come along on Jan. 6 and had made all the plans. Fracker said he and the other rioters had engaged in a non-verbal conspiracy to disrupt the joint session of Congress, and also testified that afterward, Robertson had destroyed both of their cellphones in an effort to get rid of potentially incriminating evidence.
Notably, jurors did not hear about the firearm “shopping spree” last summer that sent Robertson back to jail. In late July, prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his bond, saying he’d ordered 37 guns while under federal indictment. They also said a search of his home had turned up an M4 rifle, a partial pipe bomb and two M228 fuzes used on training grenade.
Both Robertson and Fracker’s release conditions prohibited them from possessing firearms. Federal law also prohibits anyone under federal indictment for a crime with a sentence of more than 1 year from shipping or transporting firearms or ammunition. Cooper, in his order sending Robertson back to jail, said it appeared Robertson was well aware he wasn’t supposed to have the guns based on his efforts to conceal a $3,700 Venmo transaction for firearms.
“It appears that Robertson may have attached the label ‘Wedding Photos’ to a Venmo transaction that was actually for ammunition, suggesting an effort to avoid detection,” Cooper wrote at the time.
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