Federal prosecutors Monday argued that Georgia resident Jack Wade Whitton was too much of a danger to allow him out of jail while awaiting trial for his alleged brutal attacks on police officers in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
The argument, combined with video showing the 30-year-old Locust Grove fencing contractor and former CrossFit instructor punching and kicking police officers and dragging a prone police officer deep into the arms of an angry mob, appeared to make an impression on U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
“I’m inclined to order continued detention,” the judge said.
Sullivan said he would issue a written order in a couple of days, but suggested to defense attorney Benjamin Alper that he discuss with his client whether he would rather wait in the D.C. jail or stay in the federal detention center in Clayton County.
Whitton is accused of participating in some of the worst violence during the Capitol insurrection. During a second of two sustained assaults on the police, prosecutors say Whitton told an officer, “You’re going to die tonight.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Kukowski said the evidence shows that Whitton was not merely part of a crowd pushing toward the Capitol, but his direct attacks across the police line were “very much the reason why all these assaults were able to happen and happen in such quick succession.”
Federal authorities have charged nearly 400 people with crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot, and federal prosecutors have fought for many of them to be held without bond. But a growing number of suspects — including several from Georgia — have successfully fought for their release pending trial.
Whitton may be a special case.
In Monday’s hearing, prosecutors used clips from videos, including police bodycam footage, and Whitton’s own text messages with an unnamed associate to emphasize the violence of his alleged assaults on Metro D.C. police officers. In one text, Whitton allegedly bragged that he “fed” a police officer to the angry crowd.
“This is from a bad cop,” Whitton allegedly texted about a picture of a bloodied hand. “Yea I fed him to the people. Idk his status. And don’t care tbh.”
“The defendant here purposely chose to act violently and continued to reengage in it,” Kukowski said, adding that Whitton has shown no remorse for the riot or “the values that brought him there that day.”
Alper countered that Whitton had no prior criminal history, aside from a traffic citation and a criminal trespass misdemeanor related to fishing on private property. Whitton is not a member of “any proud boy group or antigovernment militia” and did not have a history of making threats on social media, he said.
“There is nothing in Mr. Whitton’s background or history to suggests that he is presently a danger to himself or the community,” Alper said.
The defense also submitted more than 40 letters and affidavits by Whitton’s family and friends supporting his release. Alper said those who know him contend his alleged behavior is “completely out of his nature.”
Alper said the Jan. 6 riot is a singular event and suggested Whitton was driven by “mob mentality” and is not a violent man.
“These are very serious allegations. Nothing I say diminishes that,” he said.
In a somewhat surprising revelation, Alper said Whitton was first contacted by the FBI about his role in the riot on Feb. 5, but he wasn’t arrested until last week. Online sleuths had worked since the riot to identify the man they called “Scallops,” for the distinctives folds on the backpack he wore that day, and several posted relieved tweets at news of his arrest.
Whitton joins four other men charged as a group with the worst of the violence against police on the West Terrance. He faces multiple felony charges, including assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon, which carries a possible 20-year prison sentence.
“The evidence against this defendant is overwhelmingly strong, and accordingly, the weight of the evidence weighs heavily in favor of detention,” prosecutors said in court documents.