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Online ‘sedition hunters’ upend sentencing hearing with new video showing possible assault

The Justice Department says it will now ask for 6 months behind bars for Robert Reeder, of Maryland, in light of new video showing an altercation with police.

WASHINGTON — A group of online “sedition hunters” upended a Maryland man’s sentencing hearing Wednesday when they surfaced a new video just hours before his court appearance seemingly showing him engaged in an altercation with police on January 6.

Robert Reeder, of Harford County, Maryland, was scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan on Wednesday afternoon to be sentenced on one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building – a misdemeanor charge that carries up to six months in prison. Reeder’s attorney, Robert Bonsib, had argued in court filings that two years of probation was an appropriate penalty for his client. The Department of Justice had asked Hogan to sentence Reeder to two months behind bars, arguing he was “proud” of his participation in the Capitol riot.

But hours before the sentencing Wednesday, an online group called the Sedition Hunters posted a new image to its twitter account it said appeared to show Reeder assaulting police on the Capitol steps. Reeder has not been charged with assaulting police during the riot.

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The video appears to originate from a Russian-language YouTube page. In it, a man the DOJ has identified as Reeder – in a red hat and blue-and-black jacket – appears to shove police before being tackled himself. The Sedition Hunters account later posted a video from another angle appearing to show the same altercation.

The Sedition Hunters bill themselves as "a global community of open-source intelligence investigators (OSINT) working together to assist the U.S. FBI and Washington D.C. Capitol Police in finding people who allegedly committed crimes in the January 6 capitol riots." To date, the FBI has acknowledged the group's work in multiple court filings and hearings – most recently in a detention hearing for another defendant, Samuel Lazar, of Pennsylvania, after the group posted a number of photos appearing to show him posing with firearms, despite being prohibited by law from doing so.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Rothstein told Hogan in light of the new video the government was preparing to increase its jail request for Reeder to six months. Rothstein also said the DOJ believed additional videos might now be forthcoming, and requested a continuance of the hearing.

Bonsib said upon initial viewing the new video did look “problematic,” but said he believed additional footage would show the incident “in a different light” and would not ultimately change the condition of Reeder’s plea deal. He agreed to a continuance.

In previous court filings, Bonsib had claimed Reeder saw coverage of former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on D.C. and decided to come to D.C. He also claimed part of what Reeder was doing inside the Capitol building was looking for a way to wash tear gas out of his eyes.

Hogan referenced that account indirectly Wednesday afternoon, saying Reeder had previously been portrayed “as more an observer than a participant.” He said the new videos might change that, and agreed to the government’s request for a continuance.

Reeder will be back in court on October 8, at which point he may face an enhanced sentencing request from the DOJ.

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