By Andrew Kaczynski, Marshall Cohen and Em Steck, CNN
Updated: Sat, 23 Oct 2021 12:16:17 GMT
An Arizona political commentator charged in the US Capitol riot spoke at a small right-wing rally in Phoenix last month that was attended by over a dozen Proud Boys, even though a federal judge had ordered him not to associate with any members of the extremist group.
Pictures posted online and a video obtained by CNN from an attendee show Micajah Jackson near a group of Proud Boys, spouting conspiracies about January 6. This raises questions of whether he violated the conditions of his pre-trial release, or at the least gave fresh material to prosecutors that they could use against him in court, as they have in other Capitol riot cases.
Jackson spoke at the Sept. 26 event, organized by Look Ahead America, the group that held a similar rally in Washington, DC, to support defendants charged in the pro-Trump insurrection.
One picture, posted by Jackson on Twitter, shows him posing with a Republican congressional candidate who praised the Proud Boys in attendance during his speech that day. A man in Proud Boys attire, not with the pair, stands in the background behind them at the event. A video obtained by CNN from AZ Right Wing Watch, a Twitter account that monitors the far-right in the state, shows Jackson talking to the candidate, Arizona state Rep. Walt Blackman, near a small crowd that includes at least four men in Proud Boys attire.
Jackson's attorney told CNN that Jackson had no knowledge the Proud Boys would be attending and that he is complying with the terms of his release. She added that the Justice Department is aware of his participation in the rally, but hasn't flagged it to the judge or tried to revoke his bail.
At the rally, Jackson baselessly claimed that the government "weaponized the FBI, the Capitol police, DC police, Antifa, BLM, and Democratic activists to set up a coup against patriotic Americans like myself and hundreds and thousands of others that are still being persecuted," comparing it to "KGB stuff." Leaning into the false-flag conspiracy, Jackson called on the Justice Department to "prosecute every Congress member that was part of this set-up coup against us."
Jackson was charged with four misdemeanors that the Justice Department has used against hundreds of other rioters who aren't accused of attacking police or destroying property — including entering a restricted building and unlawfully protesting at the US Capitol. He has pleaded not guilty.
Court order to avoid Proud Boys
FBI agents arrested Jackson on May 18. As is common in Capitol riot cases where the defendant isn't accused of violence, a federal judge released Jackson before trial. She ordered that he "not associate with any known members of the Proud Boys organization." The order was signed by Judge Robin M. Meriweather on March 27, months before the Arizona rally.
Jackson's presence at the rally with the Proud Boys could create legal problems for him.
If federal prosecutors believe he knowingly violated the release conditions, they could ask a judge to revoke his bail. In other Capitol riot cases, the Justice Department has quickly flagged potential bail violations to judges, including one rioter who was sent back to jail in part because he watched far-right conspiracy videos online. Other judges deal with violations with warnings.
A spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in DC declined to comment about Jackson's case.
Maria Jacob, a public defender who represents Jackson, told CNN in a statement that Jackson didn't directly associate with any Proud Boys, and therefore is complying with the release order.
"Mr. Jackson did not have any contact with any members of the Proud Boys at the Justice for J6 rally and had no knowledge that any of its members would attend. The government is aware of the allegations and to date has filed no suggestion of a violation or request for action," she said.
There's no indication Jackson took pictures with any Proud Boys or knew they'd be at the rally. If he is convicted, prosecutors could bring up this incident at sentencing -- in similar cases, prosecutors have advocated for harsher punishments by citing rioters' incendiary rhetoric and nonchalance toward court orders.
The next hearing in Jackson's case is scheduled for Wednesday in DC District Court.
Jackson is one of a few dozen Capitol riot defendants with ties to the Proud Boys, according to CNN's latest tally. He's also a veteran who served as a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, according to Pentagon records, making him one of several dozen veterans facing charges.
Prosecutors say Jackson marched to the Capitol with a group of Proud Boys and was with them when they breached the first barricades outside the building. Prosecutors say photos show Jackson in a group led by Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs, another veteran who is also facing charges for the riot.
In an interview with the FBI, Jackson claimed he wasn't affiliated with the Proud Boys and said he never met any members before January 6, according to court filings. He also said he doesn't support their ideology, which is often described as far-right with White nationalist sympathies. Investigators cast doubt on Jackson's denials and called them "self-serving" in court filings.
In addition to denying that he is tied to the Proud Boys, he complained at last month's Phoenix rally about people who label others as White supremacists, and compared liberals to Nazis.
"If you went against the Nazi party -- what they're doing, calling everyone a White supremacist, is the same exact thing that Hitler did with the Jews," Jackson said at the event.