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Weapon arguments made during hearing for former Rocky Mount officer charged in Jan. 6 riot

Weapon arguments made during hearing for former Rocky Mount officer charged in Jan. 6 riot

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Thomas “T.J.” Robertson

The federal hearing for a former Rocky Mount police officer accused of violating the conditions of his bond ended Wednesday morning without a ruling from the judge.

Thomas “T.J.” Robertson and another former Rocky Mount officer, Jacob Fracker, face federal charges for participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. On June 30, prosecutors filed a motion to revoke Robertson’s bond after a search of his Ferrum home found firearms and explosive devices. Prosecutors contend Robertson violated the conditions of his release.

Wednesday’s hearing took place in Washington, D.C., with Robertson appearing in person. Robertson’s attorney, Mark Rollins, said the former police officer is being held in Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange County because he personally knows most of the police in Southwest Virginia.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Robertson’s son, Hunter Robertson, testified that he owned the M4 rifle that the FBI found in his father’s home. His father had told him that it was okay to go target shooting on the property while his father was away from the house, he said. FBI agents arrived to search the home while Hunter Robertson was there.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi told District Judge Christopher Cooper that Hunter Robertson’s testimony was inconsistent with statements he made to the FBI when the gun was seized, but that she would not push the issue further for the moment because of other items such as a pipe bomb, a grenade, and silencers that were also found in the home.

Rollins contended that the grenade and the pipe bomb were items Robertson used to give training to other police officers, and that no issues had been raised regarding those items when federal authorities first searched his home and seized guns in January.

Aloi said that what the devices were used for didn’t matter, as by possessing them Robertson was in violation of his bond conditions. “What we have here is a defendant who just thinks he is above the law,” she said.

Aloi additionally contended that Robertson’s purchase of 34 firearms, which were shipped to a gun dealership in Roanoke, also violated the bond conditions. Rollins argued that paperwork requirements guaranteed that Robertson could not legally take physical possession of those guns, thus making violation of the bond order impossible.

At the end of the hearing, Cooper said he would need to weigh Hunter Robertson’s testimony and the evidence presented about the gun purchase paperwork before making a ruling, which will come in the form of a written order.

Fracker and Robertson were fired by the town after federal authorities charged them for participating in the riot. Rollins has stated in previous hearings that all Robertson did was walk peacefully into the Capitol and walk out again, an argument he repeated Wednesday morning while showing video footage to the judge.

Wednesday’s hearing painted contrasting portraits of Robertson.

“He is shipping and transporting an arsenal of weapons and he is advocating for violence,” Aloi said, citing comments made by Robertson in an online gun forum on June 10 in which he wrote, “I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon. . . . cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.”

“He’s been a police officer for 28 years, with a record of not once being charged or someone making a complaint against him that he used excessive force or was actually violent in some way,” Rollins said. “He’s trained other officers.”

Robertson’s time in jail has been “more extreme than most, because of the isolation that he’s put into, because of his background,” Rollins said. He said that were the judge to allow Robertson out on bond again, the former officer would comply with any additional conditions placed upon him. “You’ve gotten his attention.”

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