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Former Rocky Mount police officer jailed in U.S. Capitol insurrection case seeks speedy trial

Former Rocky Mount police officer jailed in U.S. Capitol insurrection case seeks speedy trial

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Thomas “T.J.” Robertson

It will likely be next year before a trial can be held for two former Rocky Mount police officers who say they did nothing wrong by entering the U.S. Capitol while it was being overrun by supporters of Donald Trump.

Both Thomas “T.J.” Robertson and Jacob Fracker continue to express no interest in plea agreements offered by the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said Thursday during a virtual hearing in the case.

Robertson is seeking a speedy trial, which means a date must be scheduled within 70 days of when he was incarcerated in late July for violating his bond.

“Where the rubber meets the road is when you have a defendant who says ‘I want to go to trial,’” Washington D.C. District Judge Christopher Cooper said in inquiring about a date.

Although Aloi said a trial could be held by early next year, one was not scheduled Thursday. Cooper asked the parties to be back in court Nov. 10 for another status conference.

Other circumstances, such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, could complicate the speedy trial requirement. But Cooper said he wanted to avoid the possibility of Robertson spending more time in jail awaiting trial than what his ultimate sentence would be – assuming that he is convicted.

Robertson and Fracker say they committed no acts of violence during the Jan. 6 riots and were not told by Capitol police officers that they were not allowed to enter the building.

They were charged with the felony of obstructing an official proceeding, and several misdemeanors, after a photograph showed them posing in front of the statue of a Revolutionary War hero. Both men were fired from their jobs as Rocky Mount police officers a short time later.

At first, both Robertson and Fracker agreed to waive their speedy trial rights; Robertson changed his mind after he was incarcerated for possession of firearms and other offenses that violated the conditions of his bond.

More than 600 people – including two others from Western Virginia – have been charged with participating in the uprising, which came during a joint session of Congress to certify an election won by President Joe Biden.

Earlier in the day, Trump urged a large crowd that had gathered nearby to “fight like hell” against an election he says was rigged against him. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Although some members of the crowd have said they did nothing violent, prosecutors contend that doesn’t absolve them.

“Every single person charged, at the very least, contributed to the inability of Congress to carry out the certification of our Presidential election,” they said in court papers.

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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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