Man charged with assaulting DC Police officer Fanone to be released

Man charged with assaulting DC Police officer Fanone to be released
US District Court for the District of Columbia

One of the January 6 rioters charged in the assault of DC Police Officer Michael Fanone will be released from jail and put on house arrest at his parents’ home, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

Thomas Sibick of New York has been in jail since he was arrested in March. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Sibick earned his pre-trial release by apologizing for his actions, distancing himself from the other Capitol rioters in jail, and pledging to avoid social media and political news.

He pleaded not guilty to 10 federal crimes. Prosecutors say Sibick attacked Fanone and robbed him of his police badge and radio, leading to Fanone’s hospitalization. The incident is one of the most well-known police assaults from January 6, and Fanone testified about it before the House Select Committee.

Nearly 10 months have passed since the attack, and a few dozen of the rioters are still in jail while their cases slowly move through the courts. Most of the people behind bars have, like Sibick, been charged with violent crimes. But in recent weeks, judges have expressed more openness to release defendants from detention, given the slow pace of their cases, and the challenges of preparing for trial from jail.

“Giving you the benefit of the doubt, which I think you’ve earned, I believe you deserve a chance… please understand that there will be only one chance,” Jackson told Sibick at a court hearing. “If you violate my conditions, that will be an indication that my trust was misplaced.”

As part of the conditions, Sibick agreed not to watch any political news and to stay off social media. The goal of these restrictions was to keep Sibick away from the material that fueled his involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Earlier in the hearing, Sibick’s defense attorney said Sibick was “watching Fox News in a manic phase” around the 2020 election and was “deluded by claims of stolen elections.”

“I’m not going to order him to not watch Fox News,” but Sibick must “turn off the talk shows,” Jackson said. “No political news. No MSNBC either, The whole thing. It has to be kind of a calm environment.”

The judge cited Sibick’s efforts to separate himself from other Capitol rioters in the jail, as shown by his willingness to “endure more harsh conditions” by asking to move to solitary confinement. His attorney Stephen Brennwald said the other January 6 defendants participate in a nightly “cult-like” tradition of singing the national anthem.

“Every night at 9 o’clock, the folks there sing The Star-Spangled Banner,” Brennwald said. “…I was on the phone with Mr. Sibick a month ago. We talked and in the middle of our talk, he said he has to go, put the phone down. ‘They’ll be angry if I don’t go over there.’ Like a herd mentality. So, he puts the phone down and they’re singing, shouting, most of them off-key, the song.”

The court hearing was emotionally charged. Sibick sobbed with his head in his hands while Jackson announced her decision. His father, Dr. Eugene Sibick, cried while Jackson questioned him about the release plan.

Jackson rebuked Eugene Sibick for comments he made to the media after a closely watched rally last month in support of January 6 defendants. The Washington Post reported that Eugene Sibick said his son’s incarceration was “a disgrace to this country” and complained about the food he was served in jail.

“His detention to date was not — as has been asserted publicly — a disgrace to our country,” Jackson said, adding that the real disgrace was the assault on Fanone and roughly 140 other police officers.

The Justice Department said earlier this summer that it prepared plea offers for Sibick and some of the other men charged with attacking Fanone. But so far, none of these defendants have pleaded guilty.

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