HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — A Henry County man charged in the insurrectionist siege of the U.S. Capitol in early January will remain in jail until his trial, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
Jack Whitton, of Locust Grove, faces four charges stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, including "act of physical violence in the capitol grounds or buildings."
The 30-year-old was among a group of five being charged together who allegedly assaulted an officer during the pro-Trump mob's storming of the Capitol, with "a baton, flag pole and crutch" according to government charging documents.
In an opinion issued by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan denying Whitton bail, the Georgia man was painted as a ringleader who "assumed a de facto leadership role in the assaults on MPD officers on the lower western terrace."
"As the government correctly points out, Mr. Whitton was 'unlike others, who joined in the assaults after they began.' Instead, he was the instigator," the judge wrote.
The opinion further describes Whitton's alleged involvement:
"He led the assault on Officer B.M., as he was the first to pull the officer away from his post and into the crowd. In the seconds that followed, the situation on the lower western terrace went from dangerous to potentially life-threatening for the MPD Officers: Officer B.M. sustained beatings from the angry mob surrounding him on the Capitol steps; Officer A.W. was then also dragged into the crowd, following the lead Mr. Whitton had set in dragging Officer B.M. down the steps; and Officer C.M. was also attacked as he tried to assist the other officers.
"Mr. Whitton bragged in a text message to an acquaintance that he 'fed [Officer B.M.] to the people.' By leading his co-defendants in dragging Officer B.M. into the violent and angry mob, he effectively 'urg[ed] rioters . . . to confront law enforcement,' which undoubtedly 'inspired further criminal conduct on the part of others.' This action 'enhances the defendant’s responsibility for the destabilizing events of January 6 and thus the seriousness of his conduct.'"
Whitton's conduct was described as "among some of the most violent acts that took place that day according to the government."
They allegedly included "using a metal crutch to strike MPD officers... kicking Officer A.W. while he was lying on the ground... dragging Officer B.M. into the violent mob of rioters on the steps of the U.S. Capitol... and later kicking at officers in a second and separate confrontation with law enforcement."
The judge also noted that Whitton's "words are likewise extremely troubling and reflective of the serious nature of his conduct and related dangerousness"
In addition to the text message about "feeding" the officer to the mob, Whitton allegedly "threatened another set of officers... telling them, chillingly, 'You’re going to die tonight.'"
"His actions and words reflect a contempt for the rule of law and law enforcement, a disturbing disregard for the safety of others, and a willingness to engage in violence. These are qualities that bear on the seriousness of the offense conduct and the ultimate inquiry of whether Mr. Whitton will comply with conditions of release meant to ensure the safety of the community," Judge Sullivan wrote.
In denying bail, the judge quoted federal prosecutors' arguments: "The government argues the first violent series of attacks and the second confrontation with law enforcement, combined with text message evidence that shows 'the defendant’s continued state of mind and continued callous disregard for officers’ lives, is why he should be detained, as he poses a clear threat and danger to the community.'"
The judge also took note of former President Donald Trump's continued pushing of the false narrative that the election was stolen, and how that could continue to inflame people like Whitton.
"While the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election is now complete, and President Biden has taken office, the Court is not convinced that dissatisfaction and concern about the legitimacy of the election results has dissipated for all Americans. Former President Donald J. Trump continues to make forceful public comments about the 'stolen election,' chastising individuals who did not reject the supposedly illegitimate results that put the current administration in place," the judge wrote. "Such comments reflect the continued threat posed by individuals like Mr. Whitton, who has demonstrated that he is willing and able to engage in extreme and terrifying levels of violence against law enforcement with a chilling disregard for the rule of law and the lives of law enforcement, seemingly based on mistaken beliefs about the illegitimacy of the current administration."