By Richard Sullins |

Public defenders will confer with a federal judge and the U.S. Attorney’s Office next month as the case of a Sanford man charged in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol prepares to go to trial.

A conference call is set for December 16 to discuss the status of charges against 38-year-old David Joseph Gietzen of Sanford, who was arrested here by the FBI in May and charged with eight counts of violating federal law in connection with the attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Gietzen was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges that stemmed from his participation in the riot, including one count of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon, which appears to have been a long metal pole that he is seen to be carrying in several photographs contained within the indictment.

FBI photo
FBI photo

Two other charges were levied against him for assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers, one for engaging in physical violence on Capitol grounds while Vice President Mike Pence was there, and four others related to his participation in the mob violence. Two of the charges are felonies.

He was charged in a criminal complaint on March 25, 2021, and indicted by a federal grand jury on April 1 of that year, but the FBI didn’t locate him at the time and he was never arrested in connection with that complaint.

Gietzen was first identified by a tipster who contacted the FBI after seeing his picture posted on the agency’s website collection of unidentified participants in the riot. A second person gave a positive identification from the same photograph and a third believed it might have been him but said that he had not seen Gietzen in a few years.

Meanwhile, investigators continued to assemble a picture of his movements by reviewing the photographic records created that day.

In a picture made on the National Mall just below the Capitol sometime before 2:13 p.m. that day, Gietzen is seen wearing jeans, knee pads, dark shoes, and a distinctive green jacket. He had shoulder-length brown hair, a short beard, and a mustache. It was the jacket and a white helmet that he appeared to have picked up near the Capitol that allowed for him to be easily spotted in both still and moving pictures.

The indictment alleges that Gietzen assaulted several law enforcement officers on the west terrace of the Capitol between 2:13 and 2:31 p.m. that day, using the pole in the last of his attacks. In photographs and video made during the melee, he can be seen punching officers and reaching for the throat of another.

The crimes committed at the Capitol were among the most documented in American history and more positive identifications have been made as agents reviewed the thousands of pictures made at the Capitol and the millions of individual frames of video footage.

It was from these materials that the FBI believes it has found evidence that Gietzen had assaulted more than one officer and used the long pole he was photographed with in carrying out at least one of those attacks.

Returned to Washington for Biden inauguration

The FBI first heard of Gietzen on January 16 – 10 days after the insurrection – when it received a report about text messages in which Gietzen and an unnamed brother said that they wanted to meet up with others at the U.S. Capitol on January 20 as President Biden was being sworn in. His brother remains uncharged to this point.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s statement of facts in the case says that in the reported text messages, “their plan was to force their way in the Capitol building to force Congress to hold another election, and that the Gietzen brothers were also at the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.”

An FBI agent was able to reach him by telephone on Tuesday, January 19, and Gietzen said that he and his brother were en route to Washington for the inauguration and had no plans to commit any acts of violence.

He told the agent that the brothers had attended the protest in Washington on January 6 but did not make it to the Capitol because of the large crowd. But multiple photographs contained in his case file show Gietzen, wearing his green jacket, scuffling with police as they attempted to hold the line in defense of the legislators and staff members inside the building.

The pictures also show Gietzen on the exterior terraces on the West Front of the Capitol mere feet from the entrance of a tunnel where officers were making a last stand to prevent the rioters from entering the building. Others show him, pole in hand, appearing to strike the plastic shield being held by an officer on the steps leading to the Capitol’s west front.

Case is pending

Gietzen was arrested in Sanford on May 11 and was advised of the charges against him that day in the federal Middle District Court for North Carolina. FBI agents seized his cell phone as part of their search at the time he was taken into custody. He was assigned a group of public defenders to represent him and was released on his own recognizance while awaiting trial.

He is the first defendant to be publicly identified as being in Washington for the riot at the Capitol and again for the presidential inauguration 14 days later.

At least 928 persons have been charged from nearly all of the 50 states in connection with criminal actions during the insurrection. 417 of the rioters have entered guilty pleas to this point. Because most of those who stormed the Capitol simply walked away in the crowd as they left, it has taken investigators time to track them all down. But the Department of Justice vows that it will find them all.

At least 33 North Carolina residents have been charged in the case, including two other Sanford men, Jere Brower and Lance Grames, who were cited on the day of the attack for unlawful entry and curfew violations. Brower’s trial is set to begin on March 13, 2023. Grames agreed to perform a period of community service through a deferred prosecution agreement. Once that requirement was satisfied, the government dropped the charges against him.

Gietzen’s case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, with investigation conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Raleigh Resident Agency of the Charlotte Field Office. The Rant contacted Lisa Costner, a public defender assigned to the case, but she declined to comment, saying the case is still pending.