NATIONAL NEWS

Writer for conservative media outlet surrenders to face Capitol riot charges

Mar 1, 2024, 2:38 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Texas-based writer for a conservative media outlet surrendered to authorities Friday on charges that he joined a mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol more than three years ago.

Steve Baker, who has written articles about the Jan. 6, 2021, riot for Blaze News, faces four misdemeanor counts, including trespassing and disorderly conduct charges. Baker was released from custody after he made his initial court appearance in Dallas on Friday, according to defense attorney William Shipley.

After the riot erupted, Baker entered the Capitol through a broken door and joined the mob at the barricaded doors to the House chamber, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit. Shipley provided The Associated Press with a copy of the affidavit, which wasn’t immediately unsealed.

In another part of the Capitol, the affidavit says, Baker “antagonized” police officers who tried to keep him on the other side of a doorjamb, repeatedly asking, “Are you going to use that (gun) on us?” He remained inside the building for approximately 37 minutes before police led him out of the Capitol, according to the FBI.

Blaze News is part of an online platform that conservative political commentator Glenn Beck founded in 2011 after leaving Fox News. Baker started writing for the media outlet after the Jan. 6 siege. He was working as a freelance journalist on Jan. 6 and later sold videos of the riot to The New York Times and HBO, according to Shipley.

Shipley said all journalists should be concerned about the charges against Baker. The lawyer said the defense will argue that this is a case of selective prosecution and that Baker has been charged because he is a conservative writer.

“Those can get reversed when the politics of the moment change,” he said.

James Lee Bright, another attorney for Baker, said it was “very troubling to see (Baker) in chains being dragged into federal court on these misdemeanors.”

“I have violent felony offenders that are treated better than this on a daily basis,” Bright said. “It is absolutely our intention to fight these charges, until the absolute very end.”

The FBI agent’s affidavit cites several statements that Baker made during and after the riot. After leaving the Capitol, he told a local television station that he was “quite excited to see this going on.”

“Do I approve of what happened today? I approve 100%,” he said, according to the affidavit.

Baker also told the station that approximately 20 to 30 people were inside then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office “at the time that I got there.” In a video uploaded to a YouTube channel on Jan. 6, Baker also referred to Pelosi with a sexist expletive.

“The only thing I regret is that I didn’t like steal their computers because God knows what I could’ve found on their computers if I’d done that. But by the time I got into Pelosi’s office, unfortunately there was some damage done,” Baker said, according to the FBI.

In an article posted on the website earlier this week, Blaze Media editor-in-chief Matthew Peterson described the federal government’s treatment of Baker as “outrageous” and said videos show Baker was “clearly present that day as an independent journalist.”

“Government retaliation such as this against journalists contradicts the very idea of a free press, the purpose of our form of government, and what once was the American way of life,” Peterson said.

Baker’s coverage of the Jan. 6 attack included the trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy for a plot to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election. Baker covered the trial from a courthouse room reserved for news reporters.

In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Baker posted on social media that the Justice Department informed him that he would be charged with Capitol riot-related crimes.

More than 1,300 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes, including several defendants who identified themselves as journalists. But prosecutors — and judges — have routinely rejected arguments from self-described journalists that the First Amendment protected their conduct on Jan. 6.

Last September, a judge sentenced Infowars host Owen Shroyer to two months behind bars for his role in the riot. Shroyer didn’t enter the Capitol, but he led a march to the building and led rioters in chants near the top of the building’s steps.

Shroyer claimed he attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 as a journalist who intended to cover the event for his Infowars show. He ultimately pleaded guilty to illegally entering a restricted area, a misdemeanor.

____

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer contributed to this report.

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Writer for conservative media outlet surrenders to face Capitol riot charges