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In Capitol riot case, prosecutors oppose ex-Rocky Mount police officer's release from jail
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In Capitol riot case, prosecutors oppose ex-Rocky Mount police officer's release from jail

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Prosecutors are opposing a former Rocky Mount police officer’s request to be released from jail pending his trial on charges of participating in the insurrection of Jan. 6.

An attorney for Thomas “T.J.” Robertson asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to place him on home incarceration, writing in a motion last month that he had learned to comply with the judge’s orders. In August, Judge Christopher Cooper found the Robertson had violated his bond by ordering firearms online after being told he was not allowed to have them.

In a response filed late Wednesday, prosecutors argued that following the instructions of a judge is not something that a former police officer should have to learn.

Such a request “makes a mockery of the badge he used to wear,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi wrote.

Aloi also noted that Robertson has expressed no remorse for his actions, which suggested that he still fails to appreciate the seriousness of entering the U.S. Capitol while it was being stormed by an angry horde of supporters of former President Donald Trump.

At a hearing earlier in the day, Cooper said he would rule on Robertson’s motion for release after prosecutors had filed their response.

No trial date has been set for Robertson and Jacob Fracker, a former Rocky Mount police officer who joined him in entering the Capitol building and posing for a now-infamous selfie photograph of the two standing in front of the statue of a Revolutionary War hero.

Both men were fired from their police jobs shortly after the photograph surfaced on social media.

In early July, federal authorities arrested Robertson on charges of violating the conditions of his personal recognizance bond after learning that he had placed online orders for what prosecutors called an “arsenal” of more than 30 firearms.

A search of his Ferrum home found a M4 carbine on a bedroom dresser, a partially assembled pipe bomb in the garage and fuses to hand grenades, court papers state.

In asking that Robertson’s bond be revoked, prosecutors also pointed to statements he made on social media following his arrest.

Robertson wrote in June on an online gun forum that federal authorities were trying to teach him a lesson. “They have,” he wrote. “But it is definitely not the intended lesson.”

“I have learned very well that if you dip your toe in the Rubicon ... cross it,” the post cited by prosecutors stated. “Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.”

About 650 people from across the country — including two other men from Western Virginia — have been charged so far with participating in the insurrection, which disrupted a session of Congress and forced lawmakers to flee as they met to certify an election that Trump lost to President Joe Biden.

Earlier in the day, Trump had urged a crowd of supporters to “fight like hell” against an election that he claimed was stolen from him.

Robertson and Fracker have maintained that they committed no acts of violence that day.

In fact, Fracker’s lawyer had said that he actually helped a Capitol police officer who was being attacked, pulling a rioter off of the officer.

But during Wednesday’s hearing, Aloi said prosecutors have found no evidence of such an act in the hundreds of hours of surveillance and body-camera footage they have reviewed.

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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