Jan. 6 defendant wants his guns back



Judge denies request by Georgia attorney for assault rifles, shotguns while he awaits trial

Americus attorney William McCall Calhoun Jr. is awaiting trial on felony charges related to his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack. But while he waits, he asked a federal judge on Wednesday to return his firearms taken by the FBI when he was arrested a few days after the riot.

Investigators seized four AR-15 assault-style rifles, four shotguns and a 9 mm automatic pistol, as well as a hat and scarf similar to the ones worn by Calhoun when he and hundreds of other Trump supporters entered the Capitol.

Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

Calhoun’s attorney, Jessica Sherman-Stoltz, argued that the government should return her client’s guns because he did not take them with him to Washington. Calhoun “is not being charged with any crime related to the use or possession of firearms,” she said.

But prosecutors said whether he took them to Washington is irrelevant given Calhoun’s history of threats.

“The fact that Calhoun discussed the execution of individuals and the threat of people arriving in DC armed with guns, in addition to the fact that he had nine firearms at his home, combine to support his actual and real intent on January 6 to obstruct the election certification,” the prosecution wrote in a Oct. 7 court filing.

In a hearing Wednesday on the motion, Sherman-Stoltz told U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington that Calhoun would be willing to give the guns to a third party for safe keeping, since the conditions of his bond prohibit the possession of firearms. Friedrich sounded skeptical.

“What’s motivating his motion? Is he going to seek to change the conditions of his release?” she asked.

Sherman-Stoltz told the judge the weapons have “sentimental value.”

“Some of them are family (guns). They belonged to his father,” she said.

Credit: FBI

Credit: FBI

Friedrich denied the motion on procedural grounds, citing federal rules that requests of this type have to be made in the district where the seizures happened. Calhoun was welcome to refile his request in Georgia, she said.

Social media evidence stays

Friedrich also denied another of Calhoun’s motions during Wednesday’s hearing that could have a significant impact if the case goes to trial.

Sherman-Stoltz had asked the judge to prohibit prosecutors from using Calhoun’s social media posts made after the 2020 election. The posts threatened civil war and public executions of perceived enemies unless Donald Trump remained president.

In the days and weeks following the election, Calhoun spewed vulgar and violent threats on Parler, Twitter and Facebook. In one comment on Facebook on Nov. 7, 2020, Calhoun claimed “communists are trying to steal the election” and said the nation was “on the verge of civil war” and “the battleground will be ATL.”

“We’re going to go door to door and execute the (expletive) communists. I want to make that clear,” he wrote, according to court records. “I’m serious.”

In another Nov. 7 post, Calhoun spun wild conspiracy theories, urging a violent uprising.

“If America is too stupid to exist, and the decision becomes final in favor of the communists, then I say we hasten the destruction of our new communist country masquerading as America,” he wrote.

Posts in a similar vein continued throughout December, then on Jan. 4 he posted he was “headed to DC to give the GOP some back bone (sic) — or they are going to have bigger problems than these coddled Antifa burning down their safe spaces.”

Sherman-Stoltz argued the posts were too prejudicial to be used as evidence and were protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Prosecutors said the posts were evidence of his state of mind, and Friedrich agreed.

“A reasonable juror can infer from the postings what his intent might have been,” she said. “They tend to show Mr. Calhoun’s reasons for traveling to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and his intent.”

Friedrich said she might consider some redactions and might issue special jury instructions regarding the posts.

Calhoun’s trial is set for the week of Jan. 17. He is charged with entering a restricted building, making a violent or disorderly entry into the Capitol, and obstructed an official proceeding. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Calhoun has continued to work as a defense attorney in southwest Georgia as he awaits trial.