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Coronado Man Arrested, Charged For Taking Part In US Capitol Insurrection

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A Coronado resident accused of taking part in the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 made his initial court appearance Thursday on federal charges.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A Coronado man faces federal charges after illegally entering the nation's Capitol during the January six siege 33 year old Jeffrey Alexander Smith and army veteran is now charged with two misdemeanor counts, KPBS, military reporter. Steve Walsh joins us to talk about who Smith is and a trend happening in the military. Steve welcome. Hi Jade. So how did law enforcement connect Smith to the Capitol riot?

Speaker 2: 00:27 This is part of a larger investigation to try to find out who committed illegal acts during the capitals seizure on the sixth. This is a case out of the DOJ in Washington, and it's came from the FBI tip line. As far as I can tell somebody called in, said that they had seen a Smith post on social media on Instagram. In fact, that he had been at the Capitol and inside the Capitol, they eventually interviewed Smith and he admitted that he in fact, was there at that point. He had already taken down that video on Instagram, but he admitted that he was there.

Speaker 1: 01:04 Okay. So what exactly is Smith charged with

Speaker 2: 01:07 Two misdemeanor counts? It's essentially, uh, entering illegally and also disorderly conduct. So Smith was there for about a half an hour inside the Capitol. His attorney said that he'd really had not intended when he went to the rally in Washington to storm the Capitol, but he got caught up in the moment. So I think we have a quote from John Rice, his attorney,

Speaker 3: 01:31 I think many of the people there will tell you, uh, they were kind of swept up in the moment. I think it was, there was a large crowd. Uh, there was a lot of excitement and you know, it just kind of went along with the crowd.

Speaker 2: 01:44 There you go. It sounds like he there's a certain amount of regret at this point. When you look through the charging sheets and what happened in, in court yesterday, it sounds like what he did is it was he and another man pushed aside three benches that were, um, in front of the Capitol building in front of the door. And then he came flooding in with hundreds, maybe thousands of other people stayed for about a half an hour. His attorney assists insists that he didn't break anything that he didn't, uh, assault anyone while in there that he just kind of wandered around the Capitol building.

Speaker 1: 02:17 Hmm. So how did he get there to the Capitol

Speaker 2: 02:20 He drove? He says, uh, for, and this is, uh, again, according to the charging sheets, he drove for 33, uh, 38 hours. I believe he was living in Coronado with his parents, drove there and, uh, he met his girlfriend who flew in from, I guess, the West coast. And then they went to the rally.

Speaker 1: 02:39 Hmm. And Smith served in the military. Tell us, uh, what we know about that.

Speaker 2: 02:44 Okay. So what we know about that, and this is according to his family, his mom and sister were there yesterday. I had a chance to speak with them very briefly and he's and they say that he was in the army for five years, starting at about 2010. And they say that he had one tour Iraq during that time period. And, and again, they say that he was honorably discharged.

Speaker 1: 03:05 This is the second known San Diego area person involved in the riot. The other died in the incident reminded,

Speaker 2: 03:11 Well that's 35 year old Ashley Babbitt, who was an air force veteran. She had also been out of the military for some time. Uh, had worked in security both while she was in the air force and outside in the private sector. Um, and she had to go on there. Um, we, we could see much more of her social media where you can see that a time. She became incredibly spun up by what was, what she saw, uh, around here. She got too caught up in the ACU and on conspiracy theories. And she was very incensed by, uh, immigration policies. And, uh, obviously she was had really, um, we, we get a better sense from her, just how deeply she believed in some of these conspiracies. And,

Speaker 1: 03:54 And how was she involved in the right? Exactly.

Speaker 2: 03:56 So Ashley Babbitt was killed by a Capitol police officer, as she tried to push through a window to get into the interior of the Capitol

Speaker 1: 04:05 Babbitt had ties to the military Smith had ties to the military. Is this just a coincidence or is there a trend happening here?

Speaker 2: 04:13 Oh, it's it, it appears that it is not just a coincidence. Uh, NPR went through all the charge sheets and this is before the Smith case. And they found one in five of the people who were charged in, in the Capitol siege were either had active duty military ties or they were, or they were veterans themselves. So this is a problem that the, uh, the military is just starting to grapple with. They have seen issues with, with racism in the ranks. There was a DOD report that came out where among the recommendations is that, uh, the military needs to do much better job of tracking people who are get caught up in these extremist groups and even be there needs to be changes in the military code of justice to make it easier to prosecute people who are found to be, uh, involved in extremist activity.

Speaker 1: 05:04 There's been the DOJ report. How has the military then responded to that? And how have they previously been responding to extremism within the room?

Speaker 2: 05:13 They say that the, you know, that they're on top of this, but it's very clear that the military has had a hard time grap grappling with domestic extremism. Much of this falls upon recruiters who have to try to figure out whether or not someone who is involved in one of these groups. There's always an issue of first amendment rights. There's always a question about whether or not somebody can just be a member, but not be an active member. Let's say do fundraising. But that's very difficult in this day and age when people are organizing completely online, somebody like the Boogaloo boys, those people may never meet one another in-person they may argue, organize entirely online. They all may only see each other through social media, but in the end they they're still, um, get caught up in these very violent acts.

Speaker 1: 06:03 All right. And before we go, bring us up to speed. What's next for Jeffrey Alexander Smith?

Speaker 2: 06:08 Well, right now he's facing up to six months in jail. He's doesn't seem to be the biggest fish among the people that were pulled from the Capitol sees though, you know, the FBI is still going through all of the social media to find out who was doing, what if they find out he was actually involved in hurting somebody or taking something from the Capitol. He could face additional charges, but right now he's out on bond $25,000 bond. He's going to have to face, uh, charges, probably a trial in Washington, DC. But in the meantime, he's out on bail,

Speaker 1: 06:42 Right? I've been speaking with KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve. Thank you. Thanks Jane.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.