It has become commonplace for the D.C. courts to add enhancements (time in prison) to sentencing agreements in Jan. 6 cases. In many J6 cases, enhancements are made after a defendant refuses a plea deal. In others, the government tries to prove J6rs engaged in “domestic terrorism” and adds a few points. In the case of Kenneth Joseph Owen Thomas (Joe Thomas), the government tried to pull off 30 points of enhancements when most of those points, according to Thomas, “were based on charges of which he had already been acquitted.” Enhancements are the reason the Proud Boys all got stiffer sentences. How many points were awarded because they didn’t accept their plea deals?
The plea offers were made public yesterday by Biggs/Rehl atty @PattisNorm , who plans to argue on appeal that the disparities are an unconstitutional "tax" on exercising right to trial. Full plea offer here: https://t.co/3ZfZLNMLvx
— Roger Parloff (@rparloff) September 7, 2023
Thomas also told UncoverDC that on multiple occasions throughout his trial, the government changed its version of Thomas’ interactions with law enforcement and the crowd that day. The government persistently argued Thomas was violent when he was not.
Fortunately for Thomas, two of the charges were dismissed by his judge because of a mistrial. Judge Dabney Friedrich in the D.C. District Court seemed to see through the government’s attempts to railroad Thomas. According to Thomas, Friedrich ultimately dismissed the two mistrial charges because the government “confused the court, confused the judge, and confused the jury” with its shifting storylines. However, in their pre-sentence review, the government probation office still “maxed him out at 10.5 years for nonviolent trespassing and standing in the way of officers.” Thomas says the probation office worked with the prosecution but is “supposed to work on behalf of the defendant to ensure fair sentencing guidelines.” His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11.
Thomas was initially hit with six charges, but the government grew those to 12 with superseding indictments in 2021 and 2022. Ultimately, Thomas ended up with seven indictments. In June 2023, after a three-week trial, the jury found him not guilty of three, and the judge dismissed two for mistrial.
The not-guilty charges were dismissed because Thomas proved he was never violent. Notably, Thomas was the first defendant to escape the 12 charges, the “obstruction of an official proceeding charge” used in many J6 cases in ways that stretch the statute well beyond its original intent or meaning.
One thing is becoming crystal clear to those following J6 court proceedings: the battle for a fair adjudication of J6 cases has been an ongoing and upward battle against a weaponized DOJ that often ignores or twists the facts to fit a narrative it wants Americans to believe. In many J6 cases, government lawyers throw charges at the wall, hoping all of them and more will stick. In others, government lawyers have used videos artfully to show certain angles of events that don’t portray the whole story.
At this point, hearing these stories, it seems doubtful the jury or the court would have found Thomas not guilty of violence had his attorneys and the evidence not proven so. However, not all J6 defendants have crack attorneys who can or want to argue the facts. Many have advised plea deals and then take their money. Few J6rs seem to have discerning or unbiased judges. And Thomas says he has great attorneys.
With regard to Judge Friedrich, Thomas feels he “is one of the lucky ones.”
“My judge didn’t start that way. She was extremely hostile at first. She actually threatened to throw my attorneys in jail because they filed a motion saying that I could use the First Amendment as part of my defense. And that enraged her. When she denied it, my attorneys pushed the issue, asking to allow First Amendment arguments. Most of the evidence the government was using against me was politically protected speech, nothing that was violent. I didn’t even call for people to be removed from office.
I posted the 12th Amendment on Facebook: no commentary, no text, no caption, no anything. I just posted. The government said that was proof I was trying to start a revolution. Oh, and I made a meme that had George Washington in it, proof that I was trying to start a revolution. You know, stuff like that. So when my lawyers motioned to use the First Amendment, she threatened them with contempt charges and sanctions, and bar complaints.
But I am a man of faith. I prayed every day God would soften the hearts of the judge the jury and confound the prosecution. The second day, when I went in, immediately her tone changed. I think it was because she saw some of the evidence the government was trying to twist around to make it seem like I was the worst of the worst. But I was professional in court, unlike the prosecution, which she had to reprimand a few times about their own professionalism. I think she saw, you know, ‘This kid has a case.'”
Most J6 defendants struggle to raise sufficient funds to pay the bills. And now we find in many of those cases, the government scours the internet for their GiveSendGo campaigns and then seizes the funds they so badly need to defend themselves and pay expenses.
Thomas told UncoverDC the government is “really good at backpedaling and wiggling their way around. At one point, my attorney caught the government tampering with witnesses out in the hallway.”
What Did Joe Thomas Do on Jan. 6 and What Did the Government Say He Did?
Thomas organized a caravan to go to D.C. for the Trump rally on Jan. 6 with the sincere intention to “see the Constitution play out the way it is supposed to in the electoral count.” Thomas says he helped a “little over 2500 people get to D.C. and paid for 750 of them to be able to have the gas and food to get there and back safely.”
He, his wife, and his daughter were originally scheduled to go to a picnic that day, but as they left the Ellipse area, his wife asked to see the Capitol. As they approached the Capitol, he says he smelled tear gas.
Both former military, Thomas and his wife felt [the tear gas] was a red flag indicating “something wasn’t right.” At that point, Thomas told his wife and daughter to leave, and he did what he was trained to do, “defend the Constitution, protect the vulnerable, and stand in front of the defenseless.”
Thomas was outside the Capitol “trying to hold the line” between the cops and the crowd from approximately 1:45 p.m. to around 9 p.m. He never went inside.
“I did not go into the building. I did not attack anybody. I did not destroy anything. I did not steal anything. I videotaped the whole day. I took weapons away from people in the crowd who were trying to instigate violence.
There was a guy trying to convince the crowd to use pipes against the Capitol Police up on the Upper West Terrace by the bleachers. He kept saying, ‘It’s for your own defense.’ But I preached no violence the whole day. I helped take those pipes away from people. I also witnessed a lot of police brutality and still kept the same rhetoric. I kept saying over and over, ‘We want peace, we want freedom and no violence. I told the police many times we backed the blue.'”
During his trial, the government tried to twist Thomas’ actions to look as though he was being violent. Government attorneys tried to pin him with charges of using weapons to obstruct police when he was, in fact, trying to take them away from impulsive people in the crowd. The government tried to prove Thomas was knocking down police when he was not.
At one point in the trial, the government put a Capitol Police officer on the stand who changed his story multiple times. He alleged Thomas cut zip ties on a tarp to let people through the scaffolding. But Thomas did nothing of the sort. In fact, it was the cop himself who cut the tarp, according to Thomas.
Thomas refuted the factually incorrect story the cop told on the stand regarding the cutting of zip ties on a tarp:
“Somebody me a knife and told me I should cut those zip ties. Initially, I fell for the herd mentality. So I took a pocket knife, and I went towards the zip tie like I was going to do something. But then one of the cops said, ‘Hey, don’t do that, put that back.’ And my brain kind of snapped, too. ‘Like, yeah, dude, what are you doing?’ And I turned around and handed the guy back the knife. I said, ‘I don’t want this.”
But then, in trial, that cop sat on the stand, saying that he could have arrested me for the destruction of property. But my attorney asked him whether he saw me damage anything. The cop said no. Then my attorney asked, ‘Don’t you need probable cause to arrest him?’ Then he’s like, well, yeah, if you put it that way.
And then they show video, a body Cam footage from a different officer. My attorney asks the cop on the stand whether he recognizes the cop in the video. And the cop admits it is him. Then, my attorney asked him what brought him to that area. And the cop says he saw individuals cutting the tarp.
At that point, the attorney played the video forward, and the same cop walks down the stairs, coming down off the bleachers area. You see him pull a big knife out of his belt, and he starts cutting that tarp himself. So, the individual that he saw cutting the tarp was him. We caught him lying on the stand.”
The list of instances where the government seems to be proving Thomas is guilty of violence he didn’t commit is too long to number here. He refrained from violence, repeatedly stating, “No violence!” throughout the day. Here you see Thomas with his camera talking to the crowd that has just been hit with teargas:
Thomas refutes the government’s rendition of incidents from the day in his own words:
“One of my alleged assaults was when I tried to catch an elderly man who was shoved down the stairs by the police. He had a cane, and while I was trying to catch him they shoved me down the steps and fell forward into a line of police.
But you can watch the video and see my target was not the police line. It was to catch the guy. I stepped forward, got pushed and then I fell and kind of balled up until the melee ended. Then I got up off the ground and went to help the guy off the ground. And when he went to reach for his cane, they pepper-sprayed him.”
Some Capitol Police Were Violent with Protesters
Thomas tells his memory of his response to the violence from some of the Capitol Police that day, corroborating countless stories from other J6 defendants:
“I was beaten and pepper sprayed multiple times. I yelled at [the] cops for it. I never fought the cops. I wasn’t perfect that day. I didn’t know I was in a restricted area. There were no signs, no announcements, no indication were weren’t allowed to be there. There were permits for that day. And on the Capitol website that day said the grounds were open to the public.
There are things I wish I’d done differently. And I expressed my remorse in court. But I got hit on the head and in the face many times. They sprayed me with pepper spray and tear gas. A little-known fact, too, something I said in court, but it was struck from the record. Tear gas is not allowed to be used in war, but we’re one of the few countries that uses it against unarmed American citizens. I got shot in the thigh with a pepper ball. I got shot in the back of my head with a bean bag at one point.
And I was trying to keep the peace, but that didn’t stop them from beating me. And as soon as they beat me, I would stand up dust myself off. I said some things I probably shouldn’t have said, like cussing at them or, like, you know, ‘Whatever, and screw these A-holes’ and whatnot. At one point, I even yelled into my camera. That’s their pepper spray. It tastes like chicken because I was mad.
But then I’d go right back to telling the cops—like, ‘Look, stop doing this. You should not be hitting unarmed Americans. We’re Americans. We didn’t do anything. And we have the right to be here to protest; honor your oath! Stop harming innocent people. We are only speaking up for our rights. I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but I mean, I literally said the same thing over and over and over again for 6-7 hours straight.”
While working in Alabama in May 2021, Thomas was arrested in a full-fledged FBI raid at his hotel. He was working out of state at the time. However, he was let go on his own recognizance after his arraignment.
Since his arrest, Thomas and his family of 6 have paid a steep price for his attendance that day. He lost his job because of his case. His “company let [him] go for the optics of me being in a Federal case.” Thomas isn’t allowed to travel outside of the District of Ohio anymore, a restriction he feels “has cut him off at the knees.”
“I can’t do anything to provide for my family. So I’ve had to resort to fundraising and that sort of stuff. I used to have a good job, but now I am cutting grass and cleaning out people’s gutters. I just do any little side job I can get a hold of to be able to keep the lights on.”
Thomas takes care of his father-in-law, who is in hospice, and he is an independent minister. He says he is lucky to be at home with his wife and children.
Grateful to be free after his arrest, Thomas started Sing4Freedom, an initiative inspired by J6 detainees in the D.C. jail who sing the National Anthem at 9 p.m. daily. He says, “God spoke to his heart to get America involved and to revitalize patriotism.”
The #j6 inmates sing the star spangled banner nightly at 9pm est. I started #Sing4Freedom in solidarity with them. It gives their families hope & strength to know they are not alone. Post video of you singing the National Anthem with the #Sing4Freedom & I will retweet it for them
— Sing4Freedom 🎗 (@J6Sing4Freedom) January 13, 2023
The D.C. jail is called the D.C. Gulag because for 22 months, 54 J6 detainees were held pre-trial and subjected to 23 hours of solitary confinement daily. Sing4Freedom is Thomas’ way of using the freedom he has enjoyed after his arrest to inspire others to submit videos of their rendition of the National Anthem in solidarity with the D.C. jail detainees and the other J6 defendants.
Like many other J6 defendants, Thomas is a veteran who loves his country. One of his sons serves in the Navy, working on submarines. After hearing him tell his story, it is entirely believable that he felt he was called to help hold the line at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He is familiar with operating with composure in chaotic situations.
Thomas served from 2000-2003 in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in response to the “global war on terrorism” that ensued after 9/11. He was in the first fleet to respond after 9/11. His ship was in the North Arabian Sea on the border of Afghanistan when the towers were hit. He told UncoverDC, “The flight deck of an aircraft carrier during nighttime combat operations is very dangerous, organized chaos. I loved it.”