WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge on Wednesday said he needs more time to review video evidence involving a Shaler man implicated in the Jan. 6 riots before he can decide whether to release him from custody.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Harvey heard more than an hour of arguments from prosecutors and attorneys for Robert Morss before saying he will not rule on Morss’ release until he can review video evidence and body cam footage.
He gave prosecutors until Friday to produce the additional video evidence and set a hearing next Tuesday to make his decision.
Attorneys for Morss argued that he was not a flight risk and had asked the judge to release him to the custody of his mother, Angela Morss. His attorneys said riot suspects who engaged in much more violent behavior have been released from custody pending trial.
Anglea Morss told the judge that she moved from the family’s home in Carson City, Nev. to her son’s Glenshaw apartment so she could help ensure he followed all restrictions set forth by the court.
Prosecutors said that Morss knew exactly what he was doing during the riots. He was wearing tactical gear and body armor and carrying scissors, knives and a gas mask.
“He didn’t just get caught up in a moment,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Jackson. “He was there, on video, actively participating, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.”
Morss, who was a substitute teacher in the Shaler Area School District, grew up in Nevada, spent four years in the Army and served as an Army Ranger. Morss then attended Penn State to study education and in January was hired by the school district, Angela Morss said.
“He appeared to put his military experience and training to use that day,” Jackson told the court. “He acted as a leader and an organizer. He lead the charge.”
Videos and photos show Morss shoving numerous police officers trying to hold the line outside the Capitol, ripping a hat off of one officer and a shield off of another.
Jackson said Morss is a danger to the community because of his Army Ranger training, and because he refused to cooperate with questions about his background and mental health.
“He refused to cooperate and obey officers that day, so how do we know he’ll cooperate and obey going forward,” Jackson asked.
She also pointed to Morss’ actions following Jan. 6. He moved apartments and left the clothes he was wearing, several handguns and a notebook with “instructions on how to build a local militia” at the former apartment.
“It’s extremely concerning,” Jackson said. “He continues to pose a continuing danger to the government, to those who work for the government, to officers and to anyone who doesn’t agree with his political ideology.”
Jackson also pointed out text messages that Morss sent in the days leading up to and after the Jan. 6 riots, which she said indicate he’s a flight risk.
“I’m pretty shook up, I’m wigging out. I’m considering leaving the country. They’re crushing everyone,” a text on Jan. 24 read.
The next day, he sent a text saying he was afraid of being flagged by law enforcement if he boarded a plane and instead, “I think I need to drive somewhere and get out of town.”
Morss was arrested in June and identified through video and photos, some of which were taken near the National Monument before the Capitol was stormed.
A video from Jan. 6 allegedly shows Morss “near the frontline of rioters who pushed past police guarding the Capitol, organizing a shield wall in the violent attack on officers inside the Lower West Terrace tunnel, and entering into the Capitol through a broken window,” a criminal complaint stated.
At one point while trying to push through a fence outside the Capitol, Morss was seen grabbing an officer’s baton and trying to rip it away, according to the complaint. He later yelled into the crowd, telling people to pass up police riot shields to create a shield wall.
Investigators said the broken window Morss climbed through led to a hideaway office for members of Congress, though it “was not specifically assigned to anyone” on that day.
Morss is charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers or employees, as well as civil disorder, robbery of personal property of the United States and obstruction of an official proceeding.
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