No good deed goes unpunished

News & Politics

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive a lead or a tip on a story in which someone believes he’s found the “evidence” of a conspiracy, corruption, or the solution to an unsolved mystery. It doesn’t even need to concern the events of January 6. Almost all these tips go nowhere. And because I’m a human being and there are only 24 hours in a day, I often simply have no time to go down the rabbit hole of what a tipster deems “the most important story of all time.”

For whatever reason I might choose not to pursue a story, a spurned tipster will often use social media to accuse me of somehow being part of the problem, obviously involved in the conspiracy myself, or “controlled opposition.” My rejection of the story “proves” that I’m a “fed.”

Trouble is, the “evidence” a tipster provides is often little more than evidence-free conjecture. Two such examples resulted in the tipster becoming an actual stalker.

Early in 2023, I was contacted by a woman from Illinois who claimed she was the victim of a government experiment in which she was unwillingly implanted with a brain chip that was controlling every aspect of her life. She also claimed that every doctor she ever contacted — over 20 years — was in on the experiment and refused to remove the implant for fear of being “assassinated” by the government. Every doctor.

For weeks, she badgered me with relentless emails and social media direct messages with “proof” of her condition. After several initial polite responses, eventually I ignored her messages.

Then things got weird.

In May 2023, I posted on X that I’d be in Washington, D.C., to cover the sentencing hearings of several Oath Keepers convicted of multiple felonies — including seditious conspiracy — in the first two of those trials. During a recess on the first day of those hearings, the Illinois woman confronted me in the hallway of the D.C. district courthouse.

She’d seen my X post and flew from Chicago to D.C. to make an in-person attempt to convince me of the truth of her plight, to take up her cause, and to publish stories about what she claimed the government had imposed upon her surgically without her consent.

To say I was taken aback is an understatement.

Her courthouse hallway confrontation soon became loud and obnoxious when I politely but firmly resisted and rebuked her entreaties. I was trying to work. I finally told her that if she didn’t leave, I’d call the U.S. Marshals to have her physically removed.

Yet another stalker

More recently, a self-styled “investigative journalist” from Atlanta I’d never met — whose stock-in-trade is wild conspiracy theory babblings — began publicly accusing Blaze Media and me of being “controlled opposition” and part of the conspiracy to hide exculpatory videos that our team had seen during our access to Capitol CCTV video. He even claimed we were working actively to provide the government with evidence it needs to convict Donald Trump and innocent protesters caught up in the events of January 6.

His primary problem with me is that I rejected his appeals to pick up and write about his own pet January 6 conspiracy theories. His first act was to accuse me of all manner of “fed” alliances. Next, he encouraged his followers to repeat the same claims on my social media platforms.

Then he, too, became a stalker.

In early March, while I was working at Blaze Media’s headquarters in Dallas, this crackpot posted an X video from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport of his arrival, in which he announced he’d flown from Atlanta for the express purpose of confronting Glenn Beck and me. (For what it’s worth, Beck is an exceptionally kind man but not easily approached, on account of his ever-present security.)

The next day, he posted a second video of himself and a local sidekick at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, babbling on about our supposed efforts to “nullify Trump” and otherwise publish disinformation about January 6 that will imperil innocents. He also announced his intent to track down Beck and me.

I was taping a segment with BlazeTV’s Sara Gonzales the following afternoon. When finished, I arrived back at my computer to find messages that one of our security officers had scared off two stalkers just outside the studio’s main entrance. Not only did we have video of the two men walking around the building and parking lot, but the nutcase had also posted a video to X — since deleted — of himself and his sidekick roaming the property.

You’ll note that I’ve not provided the names or social media links to either of the stalkers. There’s no good reason to give either one public attention, but Blaze Media has retained all the links and screenshots should a legal response become necessary.

The lead I decided to take and shouldn’t have

On December 3, I took a call from Damon Beckley of Cub Run, Kentucky, a January 6 defendant convicted on two felony counts: obstructing an official proceeding and interfering with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder.

Beckley first explained to me that his “leftist” court-appointed attorney had “railroaded” him into accepting a “stipulated bench trial.” He had opted for his case to be heard only by the judge (no jury). The “stipulated” part — according to Beckley — meant his attorney “deceived” him into “pleading guilty” without the opportunity to present video evidence he believed would exonerate him.

The FBI arrested Beckley on January 16, 2021. He was convicted by U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Boasberg on February 23, 2023. Beckley fired his court-appointed attorney and then represented himself — almost never a good idea. According to court records, “Beckley moved for a new trial within a couple of weeks, claiming that he had found exculpatory evidence that was not shown at trial and that his lawyer, Aaron Dyke, was ineffective.”

Beckley filed three different motions requesting a new trial to present what he claimed was exculpatory evidence. The court denied all three motions. It was in the waning weeks before his sentencing hearing that he reached out to me for help, asking me to review Capitol CCTV, find the evidence that he claimed existed, and write a story presenting that evidence in hopes it might assist him in a last-ditch appeal for a new trial.

Beckley explained to me persuasively that ample video evidence showed he’d assisted a group of 15 or so “distressed” U.S. Capitol Police officers in making their way through more agitated and possibly dangerous protesters inside the Capitol.

Beckley shared in detail that now-retired Capitol Police Lt. Robert Rohm approached him for help to clear safe passage through the crowd, leading them from the packed and somewhat raucous action that occurred at House main entrance all the way to the Capitol’s east doors, which had been breached earlier — and through which Beckley had entered the Capitol more than 30 minutes earlier.

Beckley told me these were the same distressed officers who had infamously been caught on video being led out of the Capitol by MAGA-hat-wearing USCP Lt. Tarik Johnson, assisted by two Oath Keepers. Because of my previous work with Johnson in developing him as a Capitol Police whistleblower, Beckley caught my attention.

Beckley made an even more fantastical claim that while he was pressed against the main House chamber doors, a gunshot was fired through one of the decorative glass panes of the door, and had it not been for the thickness of the glass pane, the bullet would have struck him in the chest. He claimed that the glass exploded against his chest, and he had to brush the shattered pieces of glass off his jacket.

Coincidentally, I had just booked time for myself and two other Blaze Media video analysts to return to the Capitol CCTV video viewing room the following week. I assured Beckley that we’d give his assertions full attention while looking at the 41,000 hours of January 6 videos.

From other January 6 trials’ evidence, I knew there would be plenty of open-source videos to accompany any Capitol CCTV videos not already made public.

If Beckley was correct and had assisted those Capitol police officers, I reasoned the court might either grant him a new trial or, at the very least, be more merciful to him at sentencing. On December 13, I assigned one of my Blaze Media analysts the project of tracing Beckley’s jaunt through the Capitol on January 6.

With photos and other videos Beckley gave us, and knowing the exact time he entered the building, it was easy to identify him on the CCTV footage and follow his trail.

Unfortunately, despite our ability to track his entire time in the Capitol, the video evidence contradicted Beckley’s heroic tale. We were able to identify a short conversation between Beckley and Rohm near the House chamber doors. But video evidence showed that when Beckley left that area and headed toward the Capitol’s east exit, he made the journey entirely alone. There was not a single officer accompanying him at any time.

That evening, I called to deliver Beckley the bad news. I explained to him that many people — myself included — had “Swiss cheese” memories of our time at the Capitol that day. I told him that the average person’s brain, unaccustomed to such highly volatile and kinetic situations, couldn’t process everything we’d experienced.

I was trying to let him down gently.

Beckley insisted that we must have missed something. “I must have returned to the House Chamber a second time,” he told me. He begged me to look one more time. The next day, I reluctantly put my analyst back on the same project, this time looking to see if Beckley had re-entered the Capitol building a second time.

He had not.

As such, we’d wasted two days and valuable time in the CCTV viewing room on a wild goose chase. Beckley’s story didn’t hold up at all.

A few days later, I had a long discussion with Beckley about the danger of going to his sentencing hearing without legal representation. I also called one of my attorneys, William Shipley, and asked him if he could help. He agreed, so I made the connection and left it to them to work out the details.

As to Beckley’s claim about a gunshot through the House Chamber’s glass door pane, we found no such evidence. Then, on January 6 of this year, NBC News reporter Ryan Reilly posted dramatic video footage from Beckley’s own camera while he was at chamber’s doorway.

From Beckley’s camera and through the broken glass, plainclothes Capitol police officers can be seen pointing their handguns directly at Beckley and others. Taunts can be heard directed at the officers from the crowd, including, “They can only kill so many of us.” And “F**king pedophiles! We know about your pedophilia!”

U.S. Representative Troy Nehls (R-Texas) can even be heard on Beckley’s video telling the mob, “I’ve been in law enforcement in Texas for 30 years, and I’ve never had people act this way. I’m ashamed!”

More importantly, the video images of the broken glass show those panes to be paper-thin, not “thick” enough to slow a bullet fired at point-blank range. Beckley’s claim, therefore, was a physical impossibility.

On Friday, February 9, Shipley represented Beckley pro bono at his sentencing hearing before Judge Boasberg. The government asked the court for 37 months of prison time. The minimum sentencing guidelines required 24 months, but Shipley managed to persuade the judge to accept Beckley’s probation officer’s recommendation of only 18 months.

Beckley sounds off on X

Earlier this month, Beckley posted a rambling screed to X claiming that Boasberg during his sentencing hearing had proclaimed, “In the end Mr. Beckley, you’re not even going to prison for what you did on January 6, you’re going for what you said on social media before that.”

Beckley then alleged that Boasberg’s pronouncement had been deleted from the hearing transcript. An anonymous witness who attended the sentencing hearing told me that Boasberg actually said the opposite. In fact, the judge told Beckley that he was going to prison not for anything he had said or written but for his actions.

Beckley then took potshots at Shipley and me.

About me, he said, “@TPC4USA [my X handle] verified my story 100% on Dec 22nd last year but didn’t publish/air it with @theblaze [because] he would get worse charges from the DOJ for doing so.”

Apparently, Beckley was suggesting I feared telling his story because I somehow imagined doing so would put me in greater jeopardy in my own pending January 6 case. (As if I’ve been afraid of poking that bear in the eye over the last three years?) Also, according to my phone records, Beckley and I had no contact on December 22.

Then Beckley said of Shipley’s voluntary representation at his sentencing hearing, “He hooked me up with Bill Shipley who threw me under a bus at my sentencing hearing to get a ‘get out of jail free card’ for Baker [because] he’s high profile.”

Shipley billed Beckley nothing and traveled across the country at his own expense, whereupon he persuaded the court to reject the government’s request for 37 months of imprisonment and talked the judge down to 18 months. For that, Beckley thinks Shipley threw him “under the bus”?

After Beckley exited the Capitol on January 6, he recorded a selfie video.

“Just came out of the Capitol building,” he said. “Had a 9mm pointed in my face by the fools in this congressional chamber.” He added: “We’re not putting up with this tyrannical rule. If we gotta come back here and start a revolution and take all of these traitors out, which is what should be done, then we will.”

With that threat on public record, Beckley should be thankful Boasberg didn’t impose the maximum sentence the government requested.

Beckley committed no violence against law enforcement on January 6, and like so many others didn’t deserve a lengthy prison sentence for entering the Capitol that afternoon. But he should probably learn to show more appreciation to those who sincerely tried to assist him rather than spewing imaginary and unfounded accusations and scapegoating them to cover for his own poor decision-making during his long legal ordeal.

Having originally offered the court a change to a guilty plea in exchange for leniency on his initial four misdemeanor charges, Beckley’s subsequent legal maneuverings and multiple changes in representation — based upon his imagined heroics — resulted in a superseding indictment that included the two felonies for which he was ultimately convicted. It is well known among January 6 attorneys and legal affairs reporters that the courts are more punitive toward defendants who draw out their proceedings and force trials, rather than accepting plea deals.

As to taking up someone’s case or cause or following another’s “hot tip,” sometimes you’re “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

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