At a status conference this week, a federal judge agreed to give the government 60 more days to bolster its case against alleged U.S. Capitol insurrectionist Jenna Ryan.
A Frisco real estate broker, Ryan made headlines after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, in part because she'd traveled to Washington in a private plane. She also livestreamed herself entering the Capitol building and posed for a picture in front of a broken window.
On Tuesday, Judge Christopher R. Cooper from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed to give the government two more months to provide discovery, said Guy L. Womack, Ryan's defense attorney. If the government can't do that, then they will reconvene on July 15.
“The government is having a lot of trouble providing discovery of all the evidence to all the defendants because they charged so many people," Womack said. "They jumped the gun."
The government has charged some 400 people for their alleged participation in the insurrection, Womack said. That's really clogging the court system, and the government isn't up to the task of getting the discovery ready within the guidelines, he added.
A large number of alleged insurrectionists are from the Dallas area. So far, the FBI's Dallas office has arrested 22 people across its division, which covers much of the state's top half, spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont said by email. On April 21, the last two to be arrested were a Cooke County GOP precinct chair and his wife.
The Capitol riot participants stormed the building after being fed lies from former President Donald Trump that last November's presidential election had been rigged against Trump. Some reportedly came with weapons, while others allegedly intended to kidnap politicians.
Ryan has pleaded not guilty to several federal misdemeanor charges, including violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building. After Tuesday's status conference, Womack said he and Ryan are feeling "very optimistic."
Normally, when someone charged in federal court is arraigned on their charges, the government has 70 days to begin the trial, Womack said. Otherwise, the case could be dismissed for denial of a speedy trial.
In many of these cases, the government doesn't have much evidence against the defendants, he said.
Womack, who also represents two others facing similar charges, said he expects there will be numerous pretrial conferences. On Tuesday, prosecutors provided evidence they'd obtained from social media, but that's all.
There will be a lot more evidence moving forward, such as some showing that police removed barriers in front of the Capitol, Womack said. The building's doors were opened and protesters were allowed to go inside, he added.
The government knew there'd be a "voluminous amount of discovery" in the cases of the alleged insurrectionists, Womack said. Still, officials likely moved forward anyway for political purposes and appearances' sake.
Wanting to look like they were "on the job," the government likely started charging everyone they could identify who attended the protest, Womack said. That includes those who were just "casually present" and wandered into the building.
It makes sense to prosecute people who vandalized the Capitol building, such as those who bothered Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's property, because those are criminal acts, Womack said. But for the "hundreds of people that they’ve charged who were merely outside protesting," it doesn’t really sound like much of a crime.
In video taken from Jan. 6, Ryan is shown speaking to officers who didn't tell her to refrain from entering the building, Womack said. Ryan then turns around and walks out on her own.
"She walked in and saw what was going on," Womack said. "There was nothing more for her to do, and she left.”
District Judge Cooper voiced his displeasure that the government wasn't ready to provide discovery for such a large number of cases, Womack said.
“I don’t think they realized the enormity of it. Or if they did, they thought, 'Well, we have to appease someone and go ahead and start charging people, even though we don’t have the evidence to provide to them,'" he said. "So, it’ll take a while to resolve itself. But it will.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.