Prosecutors: A 'network' of supporters helped fugitives avoid capture after Capitol riot

Federal prosecutors say a network of supporters has helped fugitives from Florida avoid capture to face charges stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol

Michael Kunzelman
Thursday 14 March 2024 20:00 GMT
Trump Capitol Riot
Trump Capitol Riot (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A Florida man charged with interfering with police during the Jan. 6, 2021, siege at the U.S. Capitol is connected to a “network” of supporters who have helped other Capitol riot defendants avoid capture by the FBI, prosecutors said in a court filing this week.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered Thomas Paul Osborne to be released from a Florida jail while he awaits trial on charges that he grabbed a police officer's baton during a mob's attack on the Capitol. Before the judge ruled, a Justice Department prosecutor argued that Osborne poses a risk of fleeing after his Feb. 22 arrest.

Osborne harbored a Jan. 6 defendant, Christopher Worrell, who disappeared last year after he was convicted of assaulting police with pepper spray during the Capitol riot, prosecutors said. They believe Worrell, a member of the Proud Boys extremist group, lived at Osborne's home in Lakeland, Florida, for roughly six weeks while on the run.

Prosecutors also cited Osborne's ties to the family of Jonathan Pollock and Olivia Pollock — a brother and sister from Lakeland who were declared fugitives after getting charged with Capitol riot-related crimes. Osborne traveled to Washington, D.C., with the Pollocks and their parents to attend then-President Donald Trump's “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House on Jan. 6.

In January 2024, FBI agents arrested the Pollocks and a third fugitive, Joseph Hutchinson, at a ranch in Groveland, Florida. Jonathan Pollock had remained at large for over two years. Olivia Pollock and Hutchinson were on the run for approximately 10 months after tampering with their court-ordered GPS monitoring devices.

Osborne worked at a gun shop operated by a brother of the Pollock siblings and attended the same church and prayer meetings as members of the Pollock family, according to prosecutors.

Federal authorities believe that relatives of the Pollocks helped the siblings avoid capture. Supporters gave them money and supplies and helped them "by coordinating a network of individuals who were willing and able to harbor them,” prosecutors said in a court filing. Authorities haven’t accused Osborne of sheltering the Pollocks but cited his ties to the family as a reason to fear that he could abscond.

“While Osborne may not have a passport or foreign ties,” prosecutors wrote, “the concerns presented by his access to the Pollocks’ network are the same: he has the means to flee and avoid detection by law enforcement.”

Osborne’s lawyers accused prosecutors of engaging in “guilt by association” to argue that he, like the Pollocks and Hutchinson, is a flight risk. Defense attorney Sylvia Irvin said Osborne initially tried to turn himself in to face possible Capitol riot charges in July 2021, a day after Olivia Pollock and Hutchinson initially were arrested.

“He didn’t hide. He didn’t run,” Irvin told the judge.

Osborne is charged with four counts, including a felony charge of civil disorder and three misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday.

FBI agents found several guns, packed “go-bags” and some of Worrell's belongings when they searched Osborne's home in December 2023.

After his conviction but before his sentencing, Worrell cut his GPS monitor and vanished in August 2023. The FBI arrested him the following month at his girlfriend’s home in Florida, a roughly two-hour drive from where Osborne lived. Worrell ultimately was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A federal magistrate judge in Tampa, Florida, initially ordered Osborn to remain jailed in pretrial detention. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., overruled the magistrate and ordered Osborne to remain confined to a sister's home in Susquehanna Pennsylvania, after his release from jail.

The judge warned Osborne of the consequences if he flees.

“There is no point in running because you're eventually going to get caught,” Mehta said during Thursday's remote hearing. “Running only makes matters worse.”

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