Missouri man claims he had ‘civic duty’ to enter Capitol, wants riot case dismissed

A northwest Missouri man scheduled to go on trial early next year for allegedly trespassing at the Capitol on Jan. 6 now argues his case should be dismissed, saying the charges are “arguably unconstitutional.”

Lloyd Casimiro Cruz Jr. he says he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights when he entered the building that day.

“Cruz’s indictment aims to stifle Cruz’s (and millions of others’) right to petition and speak out against perceived government abuses on Capitol Hill,” said the motion, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“The administration is seeking to insulate congressional representatives, staff, officials and bystanders from receiving the messages of Cruz and other protesters and petitioners. Such efforts by the government are unquestionably unconstitutional.”

Cruz, 39, of Polo — about 50 miles northeast of Kansas City — was arrested Feb. 28 on charges of marching, demonstrating or picketing a Capitol building and entering or remaining in a restricted building or premises. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Prosecutors say Cruz initially denied breaking into the Capitol building, then told agents that reviewing video he shot that day reminded him he had indeed entered.

Cruz’s attorney, John M. Pierce, told U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton at a hearing last week that he planned to file the motion. He said “we have come across some evidence” that was publicly available online that indicated “that in fact the Capitol was actually open at that time.”

Walton then asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst to summarize the charges against Cruz.

Furst told the judge that evidence would show that Cruz entered the Capitol building about two minutes after the initial break-in and walked around for seven or eight minutes, recording with a GoPro.

Walton asked Furst what was going on inside the building when Cruz entered.

“Was it peaceful at the time of his entry or was there chaos?” asked. “Did the alarms go off?”

Furst told the judge there was a lot going on. He said Cruz would have seen officers struggling to keep people off the northwest steps. After they breached those steps, he said, Cruz climbed them, taking video as he went.

“He was filming on the terrace of the Upper West,” he said. “He was filming people trying to get into the building. He was filming people breaking windows. He was playing the songs, you know, “This Is Our Home” (and) “U.S.A.”

“When he got in the door two minutes after the breach – as you know, it was a very violent breach, the windows went in, the officers had to retreat – the alarm was going off at the door of the Senate wing as he entered. And there was much shouting and shouting and shouting as he came in.’

Walton then addressed Pierce: “If the evidence, Mr. Pierce, supports what the government is saying, I think you have a difficult, uphill road to argue that somehow there would be a violation of the First Amendment … he had the right to he does what he did.”

Cruz’s motion, filed Saturday, argued that he could not be convicted of entering and remaining in a restricted building without authorization to do so because the Capitol is not a restricted building.

“In general, the Capitol is open to the public during regular business hours,” the proposal said. And, he said, Cruz had a constitutional right under the First Amendment “to monitor, watch, support, report and protest the work of representatives and officials inside the building.”

“Indeed, it can be argued that Cruz has a civic duty to monitor, observe, monitor and (attempt to) influence events inside the Capitol,” the motion said.

Prosecutors say this photo from U.S. Capitol surveillance video shows Lloyd Casemiro Cruz Jr., of Polo, Missouri, entering the building through the doors of the Senate wing.

Regarding the second charge against him, Cruz argued that “it is the birthright of every American to march, demonstrate and protest for the redress of grievances.”

“Cruz is charged with nothing more than entering the Capitol during regular business hours as part of a demonstration of expression regarding the fairness of the 2020 presidential election,” the motion reads. “Cruz has a 1st amendment right to express his views in such a manner.”

Walton set Cruz’s trial to begin Jan. 17 in federal court in Washington, D.C. Attorneys said they expected it to last two to four days.

Cruz is among three of 23 Missouri defendants in Capitol riot cases scheduled for trial. John George Todd III of Blue Springs has a trial date set for Nov. 14, and Nevada locksmith Isaac Yoder — accused of roaming the Capitol building dressed as George Washington — has a Feb. 7 trial date.

Of the remaining Missouri defendants, 10 have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, while five have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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