Some defendants charged in Capitol riots are choosing to represent themselves

Accused rioters risk incriminating themselves in court, attorneys warn

Gino Spocchia
Monday 18 October 2021 20:32

Capitol Police officer charged in connection to Jan. 6 riots

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A number of accused rioters from 6 January are reportedly choosing to represent themselves in court, ahead of hundreds of trials in the probe.

At least five of those who have so far faced trial have represented themselves, The Associated Press reported on Sunday, and are among 640 or more who have been accused of rioting on the US Capitol.

The defendants are able to do so though a longtime component of the US Constitution, also known as the sixth amendment, allowing self representation in court.

However, legal analysts and attorneys have warned that it will lead to alleged rioters incriminating themselves in the court room, and create extra work for the court.

“Just because you have a constitutional right to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s smart,” reasoned a New Orleans-based lawyer Michael Magner.

He told reporters that the court will also need to assist defendants who refuse to have a lawyer, and that it can be a challenge for judges to control the court room.

“The court will often wind up bending over backwards to make sure that people don’t make their situations worse by wanting to be their own Perry Mason,” Mr Magner said, in a reference to the fictional criminal defence attorney from a 1957’s TV show.

At least one accused rioter from Pennsylvania was imprisoned last month for failing to cooperate with probation officers ahead of her trial, The AP reported.

The woman, Pauline Bauer, had also repreteadly disrupted court hearings and challenged a judge for failing to release her from jail. The judge told her: “You don’t get to demand terms from me”.

She was arrested in May along with a friend who travelled with her to Washington DC, and was seen in a police officer’s body camera calling for US House speaker Nancy Pelosi to be hanged, the FBI alleges.

Another accused rioter from New York, Eric Bochene, has meanwhile been allowed to represent himself and submitted a “fee schedule” in which he appeared to ask for payment for working on his case.

FBI invistgators have arrested more than 640 people accused of rioting at the US Capitol building that day, in what was deemed an attack on American democracy.

Sentences for the five trialed have so far range from probation to jail terms of less than a year, while many accused of more serious crimes could face years in jail if convicted.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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