WASHINGTON (CN) — A 27-year-old Capitol rioter who is representing himself failed to argue his way out of jail in a bond hearing Tuesday. He accidentally admitted to several additional crimes while he was at it—which a federal judge warned him about at the onset of the hearing.
“I should note that I did not want to go pro se. I thought it was a stupid decision,” Brandon Fellows said of his decision to represent himself, or appear before the court “pro se.” He admitted that he had mistakenly prepared for an evidentiary hearing, not a bond hearing.
Fellows’ former defense attorney, Washington public defender Cara Halverson, and U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden have repeatedly urged Fellows not to represent himself. The New Yorker smoked marijuana in Senator Jeff Merkley’s office during the January riots at the Capitol building, but was out on pretrial release until McFadden ordered Fellows back into custody after he left obscene voicemails for his pretrial service officer and called the officer’s mother. He also missed his court-ordered mental health evaluation.
“I’m at a loss as to how to advise Mr. Fellows,” McFadden said. “I’ve never seen a defendant take a stand in a bond review hearing, and I think there are good reasons for that. … Any statements you say now could be used against you at trial. I don’t know what you intend to say and it sounds like the attorneys aren’t sure either.”
Fellows asked to call Halverson, his ex-lawyer, as a witness. McFadden denied the motion. “I want to note I was tricked into doing that,” Fellows said. “I read that her words would be worth more than mine. I didn’t think that was going to be denied.”
In a marathon testimony, during which there were few interruptions from a patient Judge McFadden, Fellows told an unnavigable tale that went from a constitutional lawyer telling him to wrap his phone in tinfoil, to a book report he wrote in high school, to his ex-girlfriend burning his clothes.
Fellows also admitted that he recorded a conversation with Halverson in which he asked if he should contact McFadden’s family in order to get a new judge—a supposed “loophole” he read online that claimed he would get a new judge to try his case. Fellows confessed that he had already done that with a New York state judge, which is why he had listed the judge’s wife’s phone number as his own—and was found out when a clerk of the court attempted to contact Fellows about an allegation that he was harassing a former girlfriend.
Fellows testified that Halverson told him, “You did not find a loophole, Brandon, I promise you. If you do this with Judge McFadden, you will be arrested.”
McFadden noted that Fellows had admitted under oath to multiple possible felonies, including obstruction of justice and perjury. “You’ve admitted to incredible lapses of judgment here on the stand, not least of which was seeking to disqualify a New York state judge,” McFadden said. “You’ve engaged in a pattern of behaviors that shows contempt for the criminal justice system, and I just have no confidence that you will follow my orders if I release you.”
During his cross-examination by Justice Department attorney Mona Furst, Fellows made excuses for not calling his pretrial services officer, calling her mom instead, missing his drug-test appointment, failing to complete his court-ordered mental health evaluation, and for entering the Capitol building in the first place.
Fellows also noted that had been abused as a child, has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, and is a slow learner.
“Fellows says that he’s the victim. Everybody else is wrong and he’s the only one who understands what’s going on,” Furst said. “The women he harassed, it’s their fault. He didn’t like the judge in New York, so he used the wife’s phone number to get rid of the judge. Your honor, he didn’t do it with you, but he thought about it.”
McFadden denied Fellow’s motion to have his bond status revoked. “You said that when you’re worried, you don’t make understandable decisions,” McFadden said. “I think you’re right. And that’s concerning.”
This story was republished with permission from Courthouse News Service.