WASHINGTON (AP) — A man carrying a Confederate battle flag stormed the U.S. Capitol with his son because they intended to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory, prosecutors argued Tuesday at the close of the men's trial.
A federal judge, not a jury, will decide if Delaware residents Kevin Seefried and his adult son, Hunter, are guilty of a felony obstruction charge and several misdemeanor offenses stemming from the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden didn't immediately issue a verdict from the bench after hearing attorneys' closing arguments. He told them to return to court on Wednesday afternoon.
Defense attorneys argued that the Seefrieds had no intention of disrupting the joint session for Congress to certify the Electoral College vote when they entered the Capitol.
Widely published photographs showed Kevin Seefried carrying a Confederate battle flag inside the Capitol after he and Hunter Seefried, then 22, entered the building through a broken window.
Eugene Ohm, one of Kevin Seefried's lawyers, drew a distinction between rioters who merely trespassed and those who went inside the Capitol to interfere with Congress. Ohm said prosecutors have “sometimes blurred” that line, including in the Seefrieds' case.
Edson Bostic, Hunter Seefried's attorney, said prosecutors are asking McFadden to “take a lot of leaps” without evidence that his client intended to stop the vote count on Jan. 6.
“No one said that he was angry,” Bostic said. “No one said that he was hostile or aggressive in his interaction with the Capitol police.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benet Kearney said the Seefrieds' conduct and words, captured on video, made their intentions “crystal clear.”
“They thought the election was stolen and they were upset about it,” Kearney said.
McFadden, whom President Donald Trump nominated in 2017, presided over two previous bench trials for Capitol riot defendants. He acquitted one of all charges and partially acquitted another.
The Seefrieds' trial included the first public testimony of Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who has been lauded for his bravery during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by a mob of Trump supporters. Goodman led a group of rioters away from the Senate chamber as senators and then-Vice President Mike Pence were being evacuated. He also directed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to turn around and head away from the mob.
Goodman encountered Kevin Seefried before the mob chased the officer up a set of stairs. The officer said the elder Seefried cursed at him and jabbed at him with the base end of his flagpole three or four times without making contact with him.
Another Capitol police officer who confronted the mob near the Senate chamber recalled that Kevin Seefried asked, “Why are you protecting them?”
“I assumed he was talking about Congress,” Officer Brian Morgan testified.
The charges against both Kevin and Hunter Seefried include one felony count: obstruction of an official proceeding. They weren’t charged with assaulting any officers.
Neither defendant testified at their trial.
The father and son traveled to Washington from their home in Laurel, Delaware, to hear Trump’s speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. They were among the first rioters to approach the building near the Senate Wing Door, according to prosecutors.
After watching other rioters use a police shield and a wooden plank to break a window, Hunter Seefried used a gloved fist to clear a shard of glass in one of the broken windowpanes, prosecutors said.
FBI agents said they didn’t find any evidence linking Kevin Seefried or his son to any far-right extremist groups. Kevin Seefried told an agent that he didn’t view the Confederate flag as a symbol of racist hate.
In April, McFadden acquitted New Mexico resident Matthew Martin of misdemeanor charges that he illegally entered the Capitol and engaged in disorderly conduct after he walked into the building.
In March, McFadden acquitted a New Mexico elected official, Couy Griffin, of engaging in disorderly conduct but convicted him of illegally entering restricted Capitol grounds.
Separately on Tuesday, a former city councilman in West Virginia was sentenced to 45 days in prison for breaching the Capitol during the riot. Eric Barber was sentenced by a federal judge in Washington for his December guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of illegally entering the Capitol.
Barber also was given a seven-day sentence, which the judge suspended, for stealing a portable battery charger from a media stand inside the Capitol.
Barber was ordered to pay $500 restitution for damage done to the Capitol and for the cost of the charger.
More than 800 cases have been brought so far in the largest prosecution in Justice Department history. So far, the criminal investigation has focused primarily on the hundreds of Trump supporters who broke through police barricades, shattered windows, attacked officers and stormed into the Capitol.
More than 300 other defendants have pleaded guilty to riot offenses, mostly misdemeanors. Approximately 100 others have trial dates in 2022 or 2023.