The federal judge overseeing the trial of five Proud Boys members who are accused of plotting to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, denied a mistrial motion on Thursday after jurors reported being followed and confronted in public.
In late March, several jurors reported two incidents in which they were approached outside the courthouse by members of the public, District Judge Timothy Kelly said in a sealed proceeding Thursday that was inadvertently streamed to a media room in the Washington, DC, federal courthouse. CNN reported last week that one juror believed she was being followed.
Kelly denied a mistrial motion from all five defendants, saying that every member of the jury was questioned about the interactions and confirmed they could still judge the case fairly. Kelly also denied motions from the defendants to strike the jurors who said they had been confronted, adding that “none of the jurors expressed a concern that any of this would affect their jury service.”
Kelly said that he instructed the jury to disregard those interactions, and that “when I read this instruction to the jury, I watched many of them nod as if to say, ‘Okay, let’s get on with the case.’”
The ruling ends a dayslong argument over how to handle the alleged incidents involving a total of four jurors who were approached in public, the latest in a series of mishaps that have plagued the trial.
Kelly described the interactions in detail during the under-seal proceeding, bringing to light additional information about the incidents. A coalition of media outlets, including CNN, previously fought for access to the sealed arguments, but Kelly denied that request.
In one instance, three jurors were walking away from the courthouse when they were approached by a man on a bike, Kelly said. The man began discussing a trial he was watching at the courthouse, and while it is not clear if he mentioned the Proud Boys defendants by name, the man said that the case was interesting and called a recent defense witness “crazy.”
“The individual did not say that he knew they were jurors,” Kelly said.
The three jurors told Kelly that they thought the incident was “odd” and “weird,” but didn’t become concerned until they saw the same man sitting in the courtroom the next day, looking at them and whispering to someone else in the gallery. One juror told Kelly that seeing the man gave her a “weird feeling.”
In another instance, Kelly said that a juror reported seeing the same man at a metro stop on four separate occasions. The first time she saw the man, the juror said that he asked her if she was serving on a jury but did not mention any case specifically.
Kelly said the issue was referred to the US Marshals, who went to the metro station to find him and watched the man walk into a nearby homeless shelter. Kelly also saw two pictures of the man and said that “from my view of the photos, it was certainly plausible he was homeless.”
The juror who was approached at the metro stop told Kelly that she “did not feel intimidated by this,” he added.
After issuing his ruling Thursday, Kelly was informed by a courtroom staff member that video of the proceeding was being streamed elsewhere in the courthouse. Kelly then had the video stream cut, saying that “there is nothing we can do at this point. Let’s have them shut it off now.”