WASHINGTON — Three defendants accused of joining the assault on police officers in the Lower West Terrace Tunnel on Jan. 6 were convicted of assault and obstruction Tuesday after agreeing to a stipulated bench trial.
All three men – Geoffrey Sills, 31, Robert Morss, 29, and David Lee Judd, 36 – were part of a group of nine defendants indicted by a grand jury on dozens of charges related to sustained attacks on officers attempting to defend an entrance to the U.S. Capitol Building near the Inaugural Stage.
Morss and three other defendants were scheduled to begin a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden on those charges next week. Last week, however, Morss informed the court he would be taking a different route.
Sills, Morss and Judd all appeared before McFadden one after the other Tuesday to agree to a stipulated bench trial. It’s an uncommon proceeding in which defendants maintain a not guilty plea but agree to a statement of facts written by the government. The presiding judge – in this case, McFadden – then makes a determination on their guilt without going through a full trial.
Sills agreed he’s stolen an extendable baton from police and assaulted two officers with it before raising it up triumphantly in front of other rioters to galvanize the crowd. Judd, who told McFadden he’d formerly worked as the game day manager for the Dallas Cowboys, agreed he’d thrown a lit firework at police while they were fighting off other rioters in the tunnel and then joined an effort to push officers back. Morss, a former U.S. Army Ranger who was teaching high school history at the time of his arrest, agreed that he’d fought officers inside the tunnel, stolen a riot shield from DC Police Det. Phuson Nguyen – who testified last week at the trial of Kyle Fitzsimons, another defendant charged with assaulting police inside the tunnel – and using stolen shields to form a wall to push against the police line.
After hearing the statement of facts in each man’s case, McFadden delivered guilty verdicts on the following counts:
- Geoffrey Sills: obstruction of an official proceeding, two counts of assaulting police with a deadly or dangerous weapon, robbery;
- Robert Morss: obstruction of an official proceeding, assaulting police with a deadly or dangerous weapon, robbery;
- David Lee Judd: obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding police.
Sentencing for Sills was scheduled on Nov. 18, for Morss on Jan. 6 and for Judd on Feb. 27.
Though none of the men entered guilty pleas, assistant U.S. attorney Kimberly Paschall said the Justice Department would not oppose a three-level reduction at sentencing for acceptance of responsibility. Unlike other Jan. 6 defendants who’ve accepted plea deals, the stipulated bench trial also allowed Sills, Morss and Judd to retain their full appellate rights. That means they can appeal their convictions to the D.C. Circuit as well as pretrial decisions McFadden made in the case. Plea deals in other Jan. 6 cases have typically restricted defendants to appeals based only on ineffective assistance of counsel or newly discovered evidence. Defense counsel suggested in court one of the top items for appeal would be the refusal by McFadden and all but one other judge on the D.C. District Court to dismiss obstruction counts against defendants. The DOJ is currently appealing that judge’s decision in three cases before the D.C. Circuit.
The remaining defendants in the case were scheduled to go to trial in two groups. Three defendants – Patrick McCaughey III, David Mehaffie and Tristan Chandler Stevens – were scheduled to begin a bench trial before McFadden on Monday. McFadden granted a continuance in the trial of the remaining three defendants – Christopher Quaglin, Steven Cappuccio and Federico Klein – and was expected to set a new trial date on Tuesday. All of the defendants face multiple felony counts and could potentially be sentenced to years behind bars if convicted.
Because Sills, Morss and Judd did not accept a guilty plea, no estimated sentencing range was available on Tuesday. However, other defendants convicted of the same charges have been ordered to serve nearly three years or more behind bars. In May, Matthew Miller, of Maryland, was sentenced to 33 months in prison for repeatedly assaulting police at the Lower West Terrace Tunnel, including with a fire extinguisher. Last November, New Jersey gym owner Scott Fairlamb, who pleaded guilty to one count each of obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting police, was ordered to serve 41 months in prison. A month later, Robert Scott Palmer, of Florida, was sentenced to 63 months in prison for assaulting police with a fire extinguisher and wooden plank.
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