Decision Pending On Release In Florida Capitol Protest Case
A federal magistrate judge did not rule Thursday on whether a Tallahassee man accused of plotting to “violently confront” potential protesters at the Florida Capitol over the weekend will remain in jail until trial. An attorney for Daniel Baker asked for pretrial release.
Prosecutors pointed to online posts made by Baker as credible threats, focusing mainly on a Facebook event Baker created issuing a “call to arms” for like-minded people to surround would-be protesters.
Law enforcement and local officials had been anticipating protests at the Florida Capitol ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration this week, but the protests never materialized.
A news release from U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe’s office on Jan. 15, the day of Baker’s arrest, alleged Baker “specifically called for others to join him in encircling any protesters and confining them at the Capitol complex using firearms.”
Randolph Murrell, a federal public defender appointed to represent Baker, tried to convince Magistrate Judge Michael J. Frank that the alleged threats by Baker were “hyperbole.” Murrell told the judge his client “can be a loose cannon” with what he posts online but “poses no threat to anyone.”
Murrell called three witnesses who testified to Baker’s character, including Baker’s roommate, his landlord and a friend who had allowed Baker to live in her backyard when Baker was homeless. Each witness described Baker as soft-spoken, but frequently engaging in hyperbole that can be misunderstood by those who don’t know him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lazaro Fields called as a witness an FBI special agent who investigated and helped arrest Baker. The agent testified that Baker slammed and locked his apartment door when authorities came to arrest him and that Baker had two loaded guns in his residence.
Frank did not indicate Thursday when he would issue a written ruling. Baker is charged with transmission, in interstate commerce, of a communication containing a threat to kidnap or to injure. If convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.