A Capitol Rioter Represented Himself in Court and It Went Very, Very Wrong

October 15, 2021 Off By Paul Blest

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A Jan. 6 Capitol rioter admitted to new crimes he hadn’t been accused of during a court hearing this week, serving as yet another reminder of why you should never try to act as your own lawyer.

Brandon Fellows, a 27-year-old from Albany, New York, was charged with multiple crimes, including obstruction of an official proceeding, which could land him in prison for up to 20 years. Fellows is accused of entering the Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riot and was caught on video smoking cannabis in Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office.

But on Tuesday, while testifying in his own bond hearing—he admitted to preparing for the wrong kind of hearing—Fellows accidentally described to the court actions that could constitute more crimes: He admitted to listing the phone number of a New York state judge’s wife as his own in an attempt to get the judge dismissed from the case, based on a supposed “loophole” he read about online, according to Courthouse News

Fellows also admitted to asking his lawyer if he should do that in his federal case. Fellows testified that his lawyer told him: “You did not find a loophole, Brandon, I promise you. If you do this with Judge [Trevor] McFadden, you will be arrested.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fellows’ motion to have his bond status revoked was denied. McFadden told Fellows that he admitted to obstruction of justice and perjury on the stand. 

“You’ve admitted to incredible lapses of judgment here on the stand, not least of which was seeking to disqualify a New York state judge,” McFadden, a U.S. District Court judge nominated by former President Donald Trump, told Fellows.

“You’ve engaged in a pattern of behaviors that shows contempt for the criminal justice system, and I just have no confidence that you will follow my orders if I release you.”

Fellows is one of several accused Capitol rioters who’ve fired their lawyers and chosen to represent themselves in court. He did so despite being repeatedly warned by his former public defender and by McFadden that doing so was a bad idea. Fellows did it anyway. 

“Although, as Justice Blackmun says, I may be a fool to represent myself, I am nowhere near as big a fool as Joe Biden,” Fellows told the court last month

Fellows was allowed out on bail, but he was rearrested in July after prosecutors said rambling, obscene voicemail messages for his pretrial services officer and her mother. 

“I’m at a loss as to how to advise Mr. Fellows. I’ve never seen a defendant take a stand in a bond review hearing, and I think there are good reasons for that,” McFadden said Tuesday. “Any statements you say now could be used against you at trial. I don’t know what you intend to say and it sounds like the attorneys aren’t sure either.”