‘Fetish for Freedom’: Roger Stone’s bodyguard charged in capitol riots
A New York tattoo artist and member of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers who provided protection to disgraced Trump adviser Roger Stone the day of the sacking of the U.S. Capitol was arrested Saturday by the FBI for allegedly taking part in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Roberto Minuta, 36, was taken into custody at a business in Newburgh, New York, NBC New York first reported. The New Jersey resident faces several charges, including tampering with documents or proceedings, for going to D.C. “equipped with military-style attire and gear, including apparel emblazoned with a crest related to the Oath Keepers,” and then storming the Capitol, according to a criminal complaint.
“Minuta and others affiliated with the Oath Keepers breached the U.S. Capitol grounds, where Minuta aggressively berated and taunted U.S. Capitol police officers responsible for protecting the Capitol and the representatives inside of the Capitol,” the complaint states. “Minuta then attacked the U.S. Capitol and obstructed Congressional proceedings with other attackers on January 6, 2021.”
Minuta was also spotted by ABC News providing security for Stone the day of the Capitol riot. Asked for comment, Minuta’s wife told the outlet that her husband hadn’t entered the Capitol building and had not been charged with a crime. He is among dozens of Oath Keepers who have since been arrested for participating in the siege, including several who allegedly planning for at least two months to storm the Capitol after the 2020 election.
During a Monday court hearing, a New York federal judge ordered Minuta’s release, stating that he is not charged with a violent crime and prosecutors failed to prove he was a danger to society. Prosecutors, who had argued for his detention, said Minuta has “a fetish for freedom” that might mean he won’t obey pre-trial conditions of release.
“Why am I being targeted here? Why aren’t you going after BLM and antifa?” he told federal agents when he was arrested, according to prosecutors.
Minuta owns and operates a tattoo parlor in Newburgh called Casa Di Dolore—“House of Pain” in Italian—which made headlines in May 2020 for reopening in defiance of state lockdown orders. A crowd of supporters gathered outside Minuta’s shop the day he reopened, including a number of Oath Keepers and the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, who traveled to Newburgh from Texas to be there.
“Robert will be urging other NY small business owners to follow his example in a mass defiance of Cuomo’s edicts,” Rhodes wrote in a “call to action” on the Oath Keepers’ website prior to the event, asking others to be there. “You should know that Robert drove 350 miles all the way down to Richmond, VA on January 20, 2020 to stand with us and our Virginia brothers at the massive, historic open carry rally to put the Virginia tyrant, Governor Ralph ‘Blackface’ Northam on notice that We the People will NOT comply with his unconstitutional violations of our rights.”
The complaint states that later that month, on May 30, Minuta was seen in a video standing inside his shop wearing an Oath Keeper shirt.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Minuta has also worked security for other Trumpworld figures such as former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones at so-called Stop the Steal rallies in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Minuta was identified by Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton and a group of volunteers calling themselves the “Capitol Terrorists Exposers” who were the first to note Minuta’s connection to Flynn. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Scott-Railton described the relationships between organized groups such as the Oath Keepers and high-ranking members of Trump’s inner circle as “troubling.” Although Flynn did not respond to a request for comment, his brother Joseph said neither he nor his brother knew Minuta.
After driving from New Jersey to D.C. the day before the siege, Minuta was seen in photographs with Oath Keepers congregating near the Capitol. The complaint states that on the day he stormed the Capitol, Minuta was armed with “hard-knuckle tactical gloves, ballistic goggles, a radio with an earpiece, and possibly bear spray.” Volunteer researchers dubbed him “Goggles” for the protective eyewear he wore in footage posted online.
“We don’t care about your jobs!” he yelled at cops guarding the building.
Video footage of the insurrection shows Minuta harassing officers along with other rioters before exiting a damaged Capitol door. “Specifically, Minuta yells at an officer, among other things, ‘All that’s left is the Second Amendment!’ while holding up two fingers, apparently referencing the right to keep and bear firearms,” the complaint states.
After the riots, prosecutors state Minuta deleted his 13-year-old Facebook account in what appeared to be an attempt to hide that he went to the riots.
Federal authorities also over the weekend arrested Isaac Steve Sturgeon, 32, for allegedly using a metal police barrier to push into officers—before crawling under the barricade to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Sturgeon, who owns a lawn care business in Dillon, Montana, was arrested Saturday afternoon at JFK Airport in New York City on several charges, including obstruction of justice, for participating in the siege. Sturgeon was deported after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast, Sturgeon, who traveled to Kenya after the riots, was seen in photos and videos on the Capitol grounds with a green jacket, scarf, and dark backpack. He also meticulously documented his involvement in the riots on social media, posting several videos from former President Donald Trump’s speech at the Washington monument.
“I’ve seen the cry of The People today…,” he wrote in one Jan. 6 post, along with several photographs of him in a sea of MAGA supporters carrying Confederate and Trump flags just outside the Capitol.
In another video Sturgeon posted on Instagram, a lone D.C. police officer is seen being pulled in various directions by a crowd of rioters who are yelling at him—before other insurrectionists try to use flag poles to break down the Capitol doors. “This officer was pulled out of the Capitol, and dragged down the stairs forcefully, and then protected and returned to the force,” Sturgeon wrote. “BY THE SAME PEOPLE. Today we stand to make a statement, not hurt the police. But to represent a real issue! STAND.”
Prosecutors allege the 32-year-old did in fact hurt law enforcement, as he was among a group of rioters who “picked up a metal police barricade and shoved” it into D.C. police officers. After he pushed down officers, videos show Sturgeon crawling underneath the barrier to enter the government building.
About two weeks after the violent siege, Sturgeon traveled to Kenya and planned to return to the U.S. on April 5. Sturgeon posted several photos on Instagram about his trip, including one Jan. 28 post with the caption, “Shhh Rona don’t know i’m here…”
Last Friday, FBI agents also arrested accused Capitol rioter Shane Leedon Jenkins at his home in northwest Houston. Jenkins, who allegedly threw a pole, a desk drawer, a pipe, and a flagpole at Capitol Police officers trying to guard the building on Jan. 6, was outed to the feds by a concerned citizen analyzing publicly available video footage of the pro-Trump insurrection.
In a screenshot the unnamed tipster turned over to the FBI, Jenkins—who has a distinct tattoo underneath his right eye and another spelling out “MAMA TRIED” across the front of his neck—can be seen wearing a red beanie, a blue hoodie, and black jacket as he pulls a crowbar out of his bag and smashes one of the Capitol windows. The damaged window will cost approximately $1,500 to repair, says a criminal complaint filed on Mar. 5 in D.C. federal court.
Investigators then matched the photograph with images of Jenkins posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as a 2014 Texas Department of Criminal Justice booking photo of Jenkins in which both his facial and neck tattoos are clearly visible, as well as a driver’s license picture showing the same ink.
Ronnie Presley, a 42-year-old from Tennessee who was reportedly caught on video punching a Capitol window, was also arrested on Monday for his role in the riots. The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee confirmed to The Daily Beast that Presley was taken into custody by FBI agents Friday evening in Old Hickory. It is not immediately clear what charges Presley faces, but he is expected to make his initial court appearance on Monday afternoon.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling associates he had no idea his Justice Department seized phone records of two top Democratic congressional critics of then-President Donald Trump. In the hours since The New York Times broke the news on Thursday that prosecutors subpoenaed Apple metadata from Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), former Attorney General Sessions has privately told people that he wasn’t aware of, nor was he briefed on, the reported data seizures while he led the Trump DOJ. This week’s revelations were a surprise to him, according to a source familiar with the matter, and another person close to Sessions.
The FBI says that Brian Mock went to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 unsure of what he would face, but as he shared on social media just days later, he was prepared to fully commit to whatever came his way — even death. “I went to the Capitol not knowing what to expect but said goodbye to my 4 children, not sure if I was going to come home,” Mock wrote on Facebook on Jan. 8, according to federal documents charging Mock with multiple crimes. “I was at peace with that knowledge.” Mock, 43, is one of the latest people to be arrested for crimes related to the siege on the U.S. Capitol, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol was “planned in plain sight” but intelligence failures left police officers exposed to a violent mob of Trump supporters, a Senate investigation has found. The Capitol police intelligence division had been gathering online data since December about plots to storm the building on 6 January, including messages such as: “Bring guns. It’s now or never.” But a combination of bad communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and lack of leadership meant the warnings went unheeded, allowing the insurrectionists to overrun the Capitol and disrupt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Five people died.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have been investigating whether several Ukrainian officials helped orchestrate a wide-ranging plan to meddle in the 2020 presidential campaign, including using Rudolph W. Giuliani to spread their misleading claims about President Biden and tilt the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor, according to people with knowledge of the matter.