Will Pope, in red, holds a flag inside the Senate Carriage Entrance on the east side of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. (Screen capture from Jayden X video on YouTube)
TOPEKA — A Topeka man who faces federal charges for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol wants to represent himself because his court-appointed attorney lacks computer skills.
Will Pope, in a letter to the Washington, D.C., judge who is handling his case, also claims his indictment was based on inaccurate information presented by prosecutors.
A grand jury indicted Pope and his brother on eight federal charges related to disruptive conduct inside the U.S. Capitol building, including interfering with a law enforcement officer, impeding passage inside the building, obstructing congressional proceedings and unlawfully entering a restricted area.
Pope’s attorney, Greg English, asked the judge on Wednesday to withdraw from the case. English included a copy of Pope’s letter, dated Tuesday, in his motion.
In the year and a half since his arrest, Pope wrote in the letter, he still has not seen all of the evidence prosecutors have against him. Pope said his previous court-appointed defense attorney closed his practice earlier this year, and his new attorney “began practicing law before computers were widely used” and “never developed the skills needed” to access the government’s database of evidence.
“As you know, the January 6 cases are highly dependent on digital files, especially digital video,” Pope said. “Without access to this discovery, it is impossible for me to mount a defense.”
Pope blocked law enforcement officers from closing the Senate doors on the East side of the Capitol to prevent other rioters from entering, according to evidence presented to the grand jury in Washington, D.C.
Video also showed Pope attempting to break into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office by striking the door several times with his flag pole.
The evidence presented to the grand jury also included a Jan. 11, 2021, story from Kansas Reflector, which first reported on Pope’s involvement in the insurrection. Pope said at the time that he had turned himself into the FBI. Prosecutors, however, said Pope turned himself in a day after the Reflector published its initial story.
In his letter to the judge, Pope says “the prosecution has a track record of not accurately presenting the facts of this case.”
“The prosecution’s charging documents incorrectly state that I reported myself after initial media reports about me came out,” Pope said. “Whether that false information was intentionally included by the DOJ, or included by error, the result is the same. Local and national publications have since perpetuated false and defamatory information about me which increases negative bias towards me as a defendant. This lack of factual accuracy could taint a jury and deprive me of my constitutional right to a fair trial.”
Pope said it is “highly concerning” that the government hasn’t issued a public correction. A spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Topeka didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
Court documents indicate the prosecution hasn’t released all of the video evidence to Pope because there is so much of it. Pope said in his letter that prosecutors have tried to arrange a “reverse proffer” with his new defense attorney. The legal maneuver is designed to present such overwhelming evidence that a defendant agrees to a plea deal.
“Since the only way to counter the false narratives presented by the prosecution is to understand the facts of this case, I cannot allow my council to go into a reverse proffer unaware of the actual facts,” Pope said. “I believe defense council should first assess discovery and establish their own unbiased, uninfluenced understanding of the facts.”
Pope told the judge he will exercise his constitutional right to represent himself in the case.
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