Judge Emmet Sullivan denied a request to release Jeffrey Sabol, a Colorado man charged in the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, during a bond hearing Thursday.
Sabol, a 51-year-old geophysicist, is accused of taking a baton from a police officer and dragging another officer down steps to a waiting mob.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, he faces seven felony charges, including assaulting, resisting or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon.
Sullivan did not elaborate on his ruling but said he would be issuing a written opinion soon. Before the hearing, Sullivan expressed his inclination to keep Sabol detained, permitted that there wasn’t any significant new information.
“It’s shocking what these videos depict. It's shocking that this is a battle scene at the United States Capitol, the heart of democracy,” Sullivan said during the hearing. “I had to watch these a couple of times before it really sunk in what I was watching. … It just chokes me up.”
Sabol’s attorney Jon Norris requested that Sabol be released into house arrest and be allowed to stay at his long-term girlfriend’s home in New York, next door to his parents, instead of being sent back to Colorado.
Norris argued that Sabol did not need to be detained, portraying him as a law-abiding citizen manipulated into participating in the riot.
Norris pointed to the 30 character letters submitted in support of Sabol and his minimal criminal history, which includes only one misdemeanor from five years ago.
"While detention is permissible in this case, it is not required,” Norris said. “There is no rebuttable presumption that the government can rely upon for dangerousness in this case.”
During the hearing, Norris insisted that Sabol did not hurt anyone during the riot and that he did not attend with riot with the intention of being violent.
He pointed out that while Sabol pulled a baton out of the hands of a police officer, no video footage shows Sabol hitting anyone with it.
Norris even claimed Sabol was protecting officers during the riot, showing clips from the riot that appear to show Sabol waving his hands horizontally “like a referee” at a group of attackers and an audio file of a man yelling “don’t hurt the cops” which Norris said a witness identified as Sabol’s voice.
Prosecutor Colleen Kukowski disagreed, showing several clips from the riot that appear to show Sabol participating in violence against officers, identified by his teal backpack, tan jacket and black helmet.
One clip was from a body-worn camera of officer A.W., who’s baton Sabol is accused of taking.
It shows the officer on the ground and surrounded by a mob when Sabol approached and pulled the baton out of his hands, so hard that Sabol stumbled backwards down the steps.
That officer ended up with a laceration to the back of his head that required staples.
Kukowski described Sabol’s actions as “methodical” and “planned,” and said he was leaving the officer “without any form of self-defense.”
“To me, this shows his premeditation,” Kukowski said. “He is choosing to arm himself … and to disarm another individual. An officer standing there tasked to protect the Capitol and those inside of it.”
Kukowski also showed clips that appear to show Sabol participating in dragging Officer B.M. down the Capitol steps, away from the police line and into a mob. That officer was then beaten by an American flag.
According to the statement of facts, that video also shows Sabol appear to punch the back of the officer as he drags him. While in the hospital, records say Sabol told federal investigators that he was not punching the officer but “patting the officer on the back” saying, “we got you, man.”
Norris continued with this argument, saying the videos “do not speak for themselves” and “it’s hard to say whether he’s dragging the officer down or trying to lift the officer up."
Norris also countered Kukowski’s arguments that Sabol came to the Capitol prepared for a fight because he wore steel-toed boots, a bike helmet and had zip ties and a two-way radio.
Norris said, as an engineer, Sabol always carries zip ties and the radio was to communicate with friends in case the phones went out.
Sabol was also portrayed as a flight risk and a danger to himself during the hearing. After the riot, Sabol purchased a plane ticket to Zurich, Switzerland, but before the flight, attempted to kill himself by cutting his wrists and thighs.
Records say police stopped Sabol in Clarkstown, New York, for erratic driving five days after the riot. He was covered in blood and inside his car, police found an airline e-ticket for a trip from Boston to Switzerland, razor blades, his passport and a green backpack and tan Carhartt jacket matching the videos from the riot.
Sabol told police he chose Switzerland because the U.S. could not extradite him from there.
Norris defended this, saying Sabol did not buy the ticket to escape prosecution but “to go somewhere where he could sit and not be arrested and do research” to find videos of him doing good things at the riot. Norris pointed out that Sabol also bought a return ticket, which Kukowski called part of the “ruse.”
Kukowski said Sabol admitted to microwaving his electronics and destroying his phone after returning from the riot and that he instructed those he sent photos and videos to that day to delete them.
“This is a savvy individual who not only poses a danger to the community and is a flight risk, but also here has shown that he has the foresight to destroy evidence that was related to the events and his criminal conduct,” Kukowski said.
Sabol’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 5.