DENVER – A magistrate judge on Friday ordered a Colorado man suspected of being affiliated with a militia and accused of assaulting officers in the deadly U.S. Capitol riot be held in federal custody, concluding that he went to Washington “prepared for battle” and did not simply get swept up in the fervor of the day.
Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak said he could not be sure Robert Gieswein, 24, of Woodland Park would not be a danger if released as he awaits trial. Varholak noted Gieswein was equipped with a reinforced vest, an aerosol can thought to be either mace or bear spray, an Army helmet and a baseball bat at the Jan. 6 riot.
“That is not someone who was going to D.C. to lawfully protest what they were being told was an unlawful, or an illegal, election,” he said of Gieswein, whom authorities suspect is affiliated with the Three Percenters.
Gieswein does not have a criminal history and relatives, friends and a former employer wrote letters urging that he be released, describing him as a “caring, gentle individual” who cared for the elderly, rescued animals and wanted to become a police officer, Varholak said.
However, he said he could not ignore the allegations against Gieswein. According to the court document laying out the evidence for the charges against him, Gieswein allegedly helped push a barrier against Capitol police officers and sprayed his chemical irritant at them and encouraged a crowd to break open a window before entering through it himself.
U.S. Assistant District Attorney Julia Martinez said investigators also now think Gieswein used the spray on other officers at two locations inside the Capitol – at officers trying to close a garage-style door to contain the rioters and against another officer whom he allegedly knocked down as the officer tried to arrest him. He has not been charged for those allegations.
While Gieswein turned himself into authorities earlier this week, Martinez said he first deleted his social media accounts, got rid of the clothes and gear he was wearing during the attack and reported losing his cellphone, which can be seen in video images from the Capitol attached to his vest, with the camera pointing out.
An arrest warrant for Gieswein describes the Three Percenters as a radical militia group that advocates for resistance to federal policies it considers to infringe on personal, local and gun ownership rights. However, according to the Anti-Defamation League, some Three Percenters are not involved in militia groups and form nonparamilitary groups or act independently. The name comes from their belief that only 3% of American colonists fought against the British in the Revolutionary War.
According to the arrest warrant, Gieswein is believed to run a private paramilitary training group known as the Woodland Wild Dogs. It also said he posted multiple photos of himself on his Facebook page flashing hand signs used by Three Percenters while posing in front of its flag with other people wearing clothing with the Three Percenters’ logo.
Gieswein’s public defender, Matthew Belcher, said he had not seen those photos but said he is not aware of any evidence that he was actively participating in any paramilitary anti-government activity. He said that Gieswein did not pose a danger to the public after the riot.
“This was an isolated incident at a unique time in our history,” he said.