By Richard Sullins |

Just before the second anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a federal district court judge in Washington has continued for another 60 days the case of a Sanford man charged in connection with the insurrection, signaling that discussions over a possible plea agreement have been taking place.

Judge Carl J. Nichols granted a motion filed jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and public defenders acting on behalf of 38-year-old David Joseph Gietzen, who was arrested on May 11, 2022, in Sanford and charged with eight counts of violating federal law stemming from his alleged participation in the insurrection. The motion continues the case now until February 17, 2023.

Gietzen was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington last year on charges that arose from 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 can be seen carrying in several photographs contained within the indictment.

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.

A status hearing on the case had been scheduled for December 16. But two days before that proceeding could take place, U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves joined with public defenders Lisa Costner and Ira Knight to request a postponement that seeks to address three pending issues.

First, Gietzen’s attorneys are continuing to review a large amount of video footage and still photographs that were made as events unfolded that afternoon following former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the ellipse behind the White House during the noon hour. The crimes committed at the Capitol that day were among the most photographed in American history.

Secondly, the U.S. Department of Justice is now providing to the defense through the discovery process other items that were taken into evidence, including data that was contained on Gietzen’s cell phone at the time he was taken into custody.

The joint motion suggests there is still another motivating factor in play. In addition to providing more time for the defense to review the large amounts of digital evidence collected, the additional two months “will provide the parties additional time to continue negotiating a potential pretrial resolution.”

If a plea agreement can be reached that is acceptable to the court, DOJ, and the defendant, that could bring Gietzen’s case to a speedy conclusion before the next scheduled hearing set for February 17.

At least 964 people have been criminally charged to date as a result of their participation in the insurrection and of that number, at least 465 have pleaded guilty to the charges they faced. The FBI is continuing to comb through those mountains of evidence so that all who perpetrated the violence will be brought to justice.

Another Sanford man, Jere Dement Brower, is set for trial in Washington on March 13. Brower was arrested on the grounds of the Capitol at 7:15 p.m. on January 6 for violating a curfew that went into effect at 6 p.m. that day.

A third local man, Lance Grames, was also charged with a curfew violation along with Brower. But Grames agreed to perform community service work through a deferred prosecution agreement and the government dropped charges against him after he fulfilled his obligations. Grames was killed on November 12 when he was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of North Horner Boulevard and Carthage Street in a hit-and-run incident.

Caught on camera

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 DOJ’s statement of facts in the case says 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 January 19, and Gietzen said he and his brother were en route to Washington for the inauguration at that very moment but that they had no plans to commit any acts of violence.

By the day following the attack on the Capitol, the FBI had begun to assemble on its website a collection of photographs that contained images of unidentified persons believed to have been involved in the violence. Several still and motion pictures contained the image of a man with shoulder-length brown hair, a beard and a mustache, a distinctive green and blue jacket, jeans, and a set of knee pads. In many of those pictures, the man can be seen wearing a white football-type helmet.

Gietzen told the agent during the January 19 call 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 and 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. He was standing adjacent to the location where Rosanne Boyland of Kennesaw, Georgia, was trampled to death by fellow rioters trying to enter the Capitol.

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. Digital imprints on the pictures and videos show that Gietzen appeared to be involved in the insurrection from 2:13 to 2:31 p.m. on January 6. A federal court may soon decide whether his actions during those 18 minutes amounted to criminal conduct.

The 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.