A federal judge on Wednesday chastised an attorney representing a Capitol riot defendant for arguing that D.C. residents despise rural Americans' "traditional values" while seeking to have the proceedings moved to another court.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta singled out the attorney, David W. Fischer, for the remarks during a lengthy hearing on Wednesday in one of the government's biggest cases concerning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"This brief – and I will be reserved about what I'm about to say – reads less like a legal brief than something you might read on a blog," said Mehta, an Obama appointee. "And that's not acceptable. I expect better from you, I expect better from every other lawyer in this courtroom."
Mehta conceded that there could be a valid legal argument for why Fischer's client would not be able to receive a fair trial in Washington, but said the lawyer's rhetoric was an inappropriate way to go about raising the issue.
"You just can't come in here and start sneaking statements about traditional values and whether people in a particular city have them or despise them. It's just not going to fly," the judge said.
Fischer is representing Thomas Edward Caldwell, one of 18 co-defendants in a felony conspiracy case centered on the right-wing militia group the Oath Keepers.
Last month, Fischer submitted a motion on behalf of Caldwell, a Virginia resident, seeking a change of venue. In the filing, he argued that the district's residents are largely hostile to former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE and his supporters, making it difficult to convene an impartial jury.
"District residents not only despise Caldwell’s politics—they despise many things that traditional America stands for," the motion reads. "District residents, who largely style themselves as chic, sophisticated, worldly, high-brow urbanites, are repulsed by rural America’s traditional values, patriotism, religion, gun ownership, and perceived lack of education. Conversely, rural America is repulsed by what it perceives as East and West Coast progressive snobbery, addiction to government funding, lack of moral values, and petulant intolerance for those with different viewpoints."
Fischer said in court on Wednesday that he may have gone too far with the language he used in the brief but argued that Caldwell and the other defendants have been facing hostile treatment from the media and politicians and have been unfairly labeled as racists.
"Maybe I was a little bit extreme in my language but it's very frustrating to my client," Fischer said.
Wednesday's hearing focused on some of the defendants' efforts to dismiss the serious charges that federal prosecutors are pushing.
The Justice Department has employed a novel approach with many of the alleged participants in the riot, charging them with obstructing an official proceeding, a felony charge that carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
Fischer and other attorneys for the defendants in the case are arguing that the offense is being misapplied to their clients because the Electoral College certification on Jan. 6 is not an "official proceeding" under the law in question.