Topekan becomes pope is attempting to serve as his own defense attorney in federal charges he is facing in connection with the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are trying to stop Pope from accessing sensitive databases about this riot maintained by the government for the purpose of detection, a pre-trial process that allows the parties involved to obtain evidence from each other.
This database was previously available to lawyers representing defendants faced with charges related to the uprising, but not to the defendants themselves, according to a July 17 court document filed by US Attorney Matthew M. Graves.
At Graves’ request, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras is scheduled to conduct a hearing via Zoom Tuesday at 10 a.m. to determine whether the Pope’s decision to waive his right to an attorney and proceed “pro se” was knowingly, voluntarily and was intelligently met.
This hearing is said to be a “Faretta” investigation, named after 1975 US Supreme Court Decision establishing that defendants have a constitutional right to refuse counsel and to represent themselves in criminal proceedings if they freely and reasonably choose to do so.
Should the court allow Pope to represent himself, Graves is asking the court to appoint an “on-call attorney” to help Pope access “proprietary discovery materials.”
Federal database contains “large amount of proprietary materials”
Graves asked the court to “correct the defendant’s erroneous assumption that the pro se proceeding would enable him to gain direct access (to) defense investigative databases or otherwise evade the requirements of the protection order issued in this case.”
Graves added: “As of October 2021 all defenders of Capitol Siege were able to request a license from (the US Attorney’s Office) to access the defenseproofs.com video repository.”
Authorized users of the database can download and share video files, he wrote.
“Given the sheer volume of protected material within the repository and the ease with which materials from the repository can be shared, no defendant was granted direct access to it,” Graves added.
In a June 28 letter to the court asking to represent himself, Pope acknowledged that he had previously signed a protective order preventing him from directly accessing video discovery materials that associated with his case.
“That turned out to be a mistake,” he wrote, adding that his original defense attorney, Terry Eaton, only showed him “a handful of short clips,” then closed his practice and forced Pope to find a new attorney.
Graves questioned whether Pope actually signed a protective order.
“Despite the defendant’s letter of June 28 indicating that he had ‘signed’ the protective order, no executed copy of Schedule A was filed,” he wrote.
Pope says he needs direct access to federal database
Gregory B. English, replacing Eaton as Pope’s defense attorney, asked the court on June 29 to allow English to withdraw from the case so that Pope could represent himself.
The request was accompanied by the Pope’s June 28 letter, which said English has legal knowledge but lacks the computer skills needed to access the federal discovery database.
“To bolster my defense, I need direct access to my discovery, including global discovery, and in particular the substantial body of exculpatory evidence the government must produce,” Pope wrote.
Exculpatory evidence is evidence used to excuse, justify, or acquit a suspect of guilt.
Graves responded that given the sensitivity of a large body of material in each of the discovery databases, and the fact that most of those materials are ultimately likely irrelevant to Pope’s case, Pope and all other defendants should be denied direct access to the defense’s discovery databases .
“Such protection is particularly warranted here, where the defendant’s letter alleges that agreeing to the protection order was a ‘mistake’ and the defendant previously tweeted that he has ‘plenty of material’ for Tucker Carlson to make a ‘miniseries’ to create,” Graves wrote.
Prosecutors suggest Pope intends to pursue a lockdown defense
Graves also urged Contreras in his request:
• Investigate whether Pope’s decision to represent himself was based on his belief that his appointed counsel was unable to adequately prepare.
• Address whether Pope understands that self-advocacy does not guarantee his ability to set up a trap defense.
“The defendant appears to believe that the conclusions and conclusions he has drawn solely from his analysis of the video footage will enable him to present a containment defense in court,” the document reads. “The defendant tweeted that if their attorney is not dealing with Fed involvement and pursuing a lock-in defense, others should ‘reconsider their attorney.'”
Pope was caught on video Jan. 6, 2021 trying to force his way into the office of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to the criminal complaint that led to his indictment.
Later that month, he told The Capital-Journal that he was “not violent or destructive” in the Capitol.
Pope ran unsuccessfully for Topeka City Council in 2019. As a graduate student and graduate teaching assistant at Kansas State University, he was in Washington, DC with his brother Michael Pope, who is also indicted.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.