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Jan. 6 rioter punished for going to CPAC without permission claims meeting with Matt Gaetz was part of defense strategy

Gabriel Garcia is seen wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat while inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In one image, he is recording himself, selfie-style. In the other, he is seen on Capitol surveillance footage.

Gabriel Garcia in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (via DOJ court filings).

A former Army captain who was allegedly heard taunting former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while roaming through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has had many of his pre-trial travel privileges revoked after the judge overseeing his case determined that he lied to her about wanting to attend a high-profile convention of conservatives.

According to prosecutors, Gabriel Garcia, a Florida resident and member of the Proud Boys extremist group, was at “the very front of the crowd” that rushed a line of police officers trying to stop the siege of Donald Trump supporters at the Capitol. After breaking into the building, Garcia apparently recorded himself calling out to then-Speaker Pelosi.

“Nancy come out and play,” Garcia allegedly said, echoing the calls of other accused rioters calling for various acts of violence against Pelosi.

Garcia is also heard calling to “Free Enrique,” an apparent reference to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, currently facing seditious conspiracy charges in connection with the Capitol attack. Tarrio had been arrested days earlier and ordered to leave the D.C. area for allegedly stealing and burning a Black Lives Matter flag in front of a historic Black church in the area.

Since his arrest in January of 2021, Garcia has been banned from coming to Washington, D.C., except for court hearings and to meet with his lawyer in connection with his case. In late February, he had asked for permission to attend the trials of various Jan. 6 defendants, including Tarrio and Vitali GossJankowski, who was ultimately convicted of assault and obstruction in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed to allow Garcia to come to Washington from March 1 through 5 to observe the trials, as well as attend a trial happening in her own courtroom. Jackson’s order prohibited Garcia from visiting “any other locations” in D.C. without the court’s permission and said that he must provide a “precise itinerary” of his plans for his time in the capital.

However, it appears that while in D.C., Garcia did more than watch trials and meet his lawyers: by his own admission, he attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held in National Harbor, Maryland — some 10 miles from the federal courthouse where his case is being heard and five miles from the D.C. border. While there, he apparently met with much-maligned Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Upon discovering this, Pretrial Services, the federal agency that oversees defendants facing trial, filed a report under seal advising that Garcia had violated the terms of his release and requesting that he be brought back into custody.

In a hearing Monday, Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee, didn’t go quite that far, but she did place Garcia on strict home detention.

She also accused him of trying to hide the real reason why he wanted to come to Washington.

“When you lie about the reasons why that is necessary, that means the permission I gave you to leave the state was issued under false pretenses,” Jackson said, according to a Politico report. The judge reportedly said that Garcia didn’t need the pretext of going to the Jan. 6 trials and that if he had just asked to attend CPAC, she likely would have allowed him to go, on the condition that he did not come into D.C.

“You are finished making up your own rules,” she also said, according to Politico.

Garcia’s lawyer, Aubrey Webb, said in a filing that his client did not defy Jackson’s orders, in part because he was only ordered to provide a “precise itinerary” for his activities inside the District of Columbia, but not outside of it.

“Therefore, it cannot be said that Mr. Garcia violated the Court’s order to provide his ‘precise itinerary’ by not stating he was going to CPAC,” Webb’s motion said.

Garcia’s lawyer also argued that his client’s attendance at CPAC was actually an important part of his case, and that meeting with a high-profile, much-maligned lawmaker and conservative lawyer should be considered

“While at CPAC, Mr. Garcia was working on his defense to these charges,” Webb’s motion said. “Indeed, he asked Congressman [Matt] Gaetz, who is from Mr. Garcia’s home state, how and when could his defense team access the 40,000 hours of unreleased video Capitol Police have.”

Webb also noted that Garcia met with a conservative lawyer, Ivan Raiklin, while at the convention “to discuss at length defense strategies.”

In an apparent attempt to avoid further geographical parsing from Garcia’s attorney Webb, Jackson placed additional restrictions on what Garcia is allowed to do in Washington going forward.

“[T]he order that the defendant must stay out of the District of Columbia except for court appearances, [pretrial services] business, and meetings with his attorney is modified and clarified to provide that he must not only stay away from the precise boundaries of the District of Columbia itself, but the entire D.C. metropolitan area,” including parts of Maryland and Virginia that make up the area known as the “National Capitol Region,” the judge wrote.

Jackson also put Garcia on strict home detention.

“[H]e is restricted to his residence at all times, except for employment, religious services, medical treatment, and court appearances,” Jackson’s order, issued Monday, said.

Jackson also ordered Garcia to get permission for “any other activities” at least two business days in advance — three days if those activities take place outside the Southern District of Florida.

Jackson noted that she had previously granted Garcia’s prior requests to travel, including visits to Arizona and Puerto Rico to visit his girlfriend’s family.

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