Athens man gets split felony verdict in Jan. 6 trial

Judge finds Jake Maxwell, 21, guilty of civil disorder, but not guilty of assaulting police
Police body camera footage shows a man authorities identify as 20-year-old Jake Maxwell of Athens fighting with police on the U.S. Capitol West Plaza on Jan. 6, 2021. Maxwell was arrested Feb. 10, 2022, and charged with six criminal counts, including assaulting a police officer.

Credit: FBI Affidavit

Credit: FBI Affidavit

Police body camera footage shows a man authorities identify as 20-year-old Jake Maxwell of Athens fighting with police on the U.S. Capitol West Plaza on Jan. 6, 2021. Maxwell was arrested Feb. 10, 2022, and charged with six criminal counts, including assaulting a police officer.

An Athens man faces the prospect of incarceration for his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot after a federal judge found him guilty of felony civil disorder and two related misdemeanors.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon delivered the verdict Tuesday in Washington, D.C. He found Jake Maxwell, 22, was not guilty of two felony counts of assaulting police and two other misdemeanors.

The civil disorder conviction carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, but in practice sentences for that charge for other defendants in the Jan. 6 investigation have been as low as a few days in jail followed by long periods of probation. Maxwell’s sentencing is set for Feb. 22.

Michael van der Veen, Maxwell’s attorney, said the verdict was a “tremendous result” for his client in that it lessens the likelihood of a long sentence.

“Probation is certainly in his range,” van der Veen said. “He’s a nice young guy who stood to have his future ruined.”

Leon delivered the split verdict following a two-day bench trial last week.

Authorities arrested Maxwell in February 2022 after investigators identified him as one of the people on the West Terrace who tangled with police officers attempting to keep the crowd from entering the Capitol.

The FBI used footage from police-worn body cameras to identify Maxwell. Photos contained in court records show Maxwell pushing against the riot shield of a Capitol Police officer. The charging documents claim Maxwell then “got into a physical struggle” with a Metro D.C. Police officer and attempted to take away his baton.

At the time of his arrest, Maxwell did not deny that he was the person in the photos, but he claimed he did not remember the incident. According to court records, Maxwell told investigators he was “freaking out” at the time because he had been sprayed with an irritant by police.

Van der Veen said his client was pushed by the crowd and was panicked, but he had no intention of fighting police.

“He wasn’t assaulting anybody, any police officers,” he said. “The crowd was getting out of control.”

While many of the more than 2,000 Jan. 6 defendants have been represented by public defenders or private attorneys in the Washington area, Maxwell called on van der Veen and fellow Philadelphia lawyer William J. Brennan.

Michael van der Veen, defense attorney for former President Donald Trump, walks to the Senate Subway at the U.S. Capitol Building on Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Van der Veen and Brennan were part of former President Donald Trump’s defense team during his second Senate impeachment trial in which Trump was charged with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. Trump was acquitted in that Senate trial after a majority of senators found him guilty of inciting the riot, but not the two-thirds majority needed to convict him.

Van der Veen and Libby Van Pelt, another member of Maxwell’s defense team, also represented Jason Dolan, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, who pleaded guilty eight months after the riot to conspiracy and obstructing Congress. Dolan testified against other members of the militia in a federal trial last year that resulted in the conviction of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and other members of the group.

Van der Veen said he has family connections to the Maxwells and agreed to take the case. He described Maxwell as patriotic but “non-political now.”

“He is thankful for the verdict, and I think he is very hopeful for his future,” he said. “I think he probably has a sour taste in his mouth for politics now.”

Maxwell came to Washington with his father, Flowery Branch resident Daniel Shane Maxwell. The elder Maxwell, who was on Capitol grounds during the riot but was not charged with a crime, testified in his son’s defense.

Shane Maxwell was arrested last year in Gwinnett County on charges of illegal gambling related to a non-profit he ran that put on charity poker tournaments. That case is pending. Van der Veen said Jake Maxwell runs the family’s for-profit poker business that sets up tournaments in Atlanta area restaurants and bars.

Villa Rica man pleads to misdemeanor

In a separate case, Villa Rica resident Zachariah Boulton, 38, pleaded guilty on Nov. 7 to entering a restricted area, a misdemeanor, in a plea deal with prosecutors over his role in the Jan. 6 riot.

Boulton, an Army veteran, had been an active user of the social media site TikTok both before and after the riot and posted videos defending his participation as his “patriotic duty.”

Zachariah Boulton, of Villa Rica, Georgia, was arrested on July 10, 2023 and charged with four misdemeanors related to his alleged actions during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Credit: Facebook

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Credit: Facebook

“Don’t come at me, oh, you lowered yourself by going into that Capitol building. (Expletive) that. We need to send them a message now that they will understand,” he said, according to court records.

According to charging documents, Boulton entered the Capitol through a breached exterior door in the Upper West Terrace. In comments to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following his arrest in July, Boulton claimed police opened the door and “waved us in.”

In his interview with the AJC, Boulton said he was not concerned about the misdemeanor charges, which he described as a “slap on the wrist.” Sentencing in that case is set for Feb. 6.

So far, 29 people with Georgia ties have been charged with various crimes as part of the massive and long-running Jan. 6 investigation. All those 22 have either pleaded guilty or have been found guilty at trial of some or all charges. The remaining seven cases are pending.

Staff writer Henri Hollis contributed to this report.