A 26-year-old New York man accused of entering the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 has decided to represent himself after spending two weeks in the D.C. Jail’s law library, he told a judge Tuesday morning.
Brandon Fellows, of Schenectady, was arrested in January and indicted the following month on five counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding – a felony charge with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. In charging documents, federal prosecutors say Fellows, wearing a fake orange beard, can be seen on the live stream of Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet with his feet up on a table in the private office of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. Fellows was identified in part due to screenshots of his Facebook account, including an image of his profile photo that included the words “We took the Capitol and it was glorious.”
Fellows was also quoted in a Bloomberg article about the Capitol riot in which he claimed to have entered the building through a broken window after watching other Trump supporters breaking in a door.
On Tuesday, Fellows and his public defender, Cara Halverson, appeared before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden for a status hearing Tuesday morning. At the end of the hearing, however, Halverson said Fellows wished to address the judge directly – against her advice.
Fellows told McFadden he had gained access to the D.C. Jail’s law library over the past two weeks and had, after that period of review, determined he wanted to represent himself in his case. Fellows told the judge he has a history of “maverick decisions” that have served him well in the past.
“Your honor, you were spot on when you said last hearing that I was impulsive. But now that I have studied self-representation, it is what I want,” Fellows said. “Although, as Justice [Harry] Blackmun says, I may be a fool to represent myself, I am nowhere near as big a fool as Joe Biden.”
Despite his study, Fellows was apparently unsure of how to pronounce “pro se” – the Latin term used to indicate self-representation – when he asked McFadden to allow him to be his own lawyer.
“Once a defendant asserts the right to proceed pro se… am I saying that correctly?” Fellows asked.
Fellows said his desire to represent himself stemmed from his belief that there was “a mountain of evidence” McFadden hadn’t seen that would “bring to light the accusations against me.” He also wanted to challenge his detention status.
Fellows was initially granted pretrial release, but was ordered back into custody in June after repeated violations, including missing a court-ordered mental health evaluation and allegedly calling a probation officer’s mother. The Justice Department also said when a clerk of the court attempted to contact Fellows about another violation – allegations that he was harassing a former girlfriend – it was discovered he had apparently put the number for the judge’s wife’s office instead of his own.
Halverson, who stated multiple times before Fellows spoke that she had advised him against it, said Tuesday was the first she was hearing about his desire to represent himself.
McFadden told Fellows he would not entertain an oral motion to review his detention status, and said he’d have to file a written motion. He also ordered a two-week continuance so Fellows and Halverson can discuss his desire to represent himself before making a decision on the request – although he said he would likely grant it, if Fellows still wanted self-representation in two weeks.
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