By Richard Sullins |

A federal judge in Washington has set a date for the trial of a Sanford man charged in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, that attempted to stop members of Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election.

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols set the trial for David Joseph Gietzen, who was arrested in Sanford on May 11, 2022, by the FBI, to begin on August 28 in the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, D.C.

Gietzen is represented in the matter by court-appointed public defenders who have been negotiating with the U.S. Attorney in the case for at least six months in an effort to reach a plea agreement without apparent success.

Gietzen is charged in an eight count indictment unsealed last summer with violating a number of federal laws, including one count of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon, which appears to have been a long metal pole he is seen 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. The two assault charges are felonies which could end in a prison sentence.

Gietzen was first identified by a tipster who contacted the FBI on Valentine’s Day in 2021 after seeing his picture posted on the agency’s website collection of unidentified participants in the riot. A second person also positively identified him from the same photograph, while a third believed it might have been him but said that he had not seen Gietzen in a few years.

The crimes committed two weeks prior to Biden’s inauguration were among the most documented in American history and more positive identifications have been made in the months following the event as agents continue to review the thousands of pictures made at the Capitol and the billions of frames of video footage.

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

In a picture taken on the Mall sometime before 2:13 p.m. that day, Gietzen can be seen wearing jeans, knee pads, dark shoes, and a green and blue jacket. The photo shows him with 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.

Returned to Washington for Biden inauguration

The FBI first learned of Gietzen’s participation in the riot 10 days later, when it received a report about text messages in which he and an unnamed brother said they wanted to meet others at the Capitol on the day of Biden’s Inauguration on January 20. No charges have been filed against his brother.

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 Tuesday, January 19, and Gietzen said he and his brother were traveling by automobile 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 suggest otherwise. They show Gietzen, identified by his green jacket, hair, and the helmet, scuffling with police trying to hold the line in defense of the legislators and staff members inside.

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. Some of the bloodiest fighting of the day took place in the area where Gietzen was photographed. 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.

Cases still 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. He was assigned a group of public defenders to represent him and has been free on his own recognizance ever since.

He is the only defendant known to have been publicly identified as being in Washington for the riot at the Capitol and again for the presidential inauguration 14 days later.

More than 1,000 persons have been charged from nearly all of the 50 states in connection with criminal actions during the insurrection, with at least 500 of the rioters having entered guilty pleas in the two and a half years now since.

Because most of those who stormed the Capitol simply walked away in the crowd as they left, identifying all of them remains a painstaking process. The Justice Department says that at least 300 others are still being sought.