ALBANY – A Schenectady man arrested last week for alleged participation in the Jan. 6 riot of supporters of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol can be released on bond on condition of home confinement, a U.S. district judge decided Tuesday.
Brandon Fellows, 26, faces two federal misdemeanors — entering a restricted building or grounds, and violent entry or disorderly conduct. The charges will actually he heard in federal court in Washington, D.C., but a detention hearing following his arrest was held in Albany before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Daniel Stewart.
Stewart ruled that Fellows can be released on an unsecured $25,000 bond, on condition of home confinement with electronic monitoring. For now, he will be living with his mother, at a rented property in Schenectady.
To date, Fellows is the only Capital Region resident arrested in connection the assault on the Capitol. The charges indicate he was illegally in the Capitol, but isn’t accused of any theft or property damage. He faces up to a year in prison if convicted.
Fellows was arrested Saturday night, one of more than 100 people who have been charged to date, as the FBI continues to investigate the attack in which hundreds of Trump supporters disrupted Congress while it was counting the presidential Electoral College votes. The rioting left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer, and at least 50 officers injured.
Fellows was among the hundreds who entered the Capitol building, and he posted about it on Instagram and other social media, including pictures of himself with his feet up on the desk in a U.S. senator’s office. “We took the Capitol and it was glorious” was posted on the Brandon Craig Fellows Facebook page.
Fellows was also interviewed after the riot by a Bloomberg News reporter he met at the rally before the riot, in a story picked up by the New York Post. At that rally, Trump spoke about his belief he won the election — he didn’t — and is accused of inciting the crowd of supporters to attack the Capitol.
Fellows is a 2012 graduate of Niskayuna High School, where he was on the wrestling team. Information provided in court said that for the last four years he has been living in a converted bus or van, working in the Capital Region and western Massachusetts as what Stewart termed a “chimney-sweep” — though Fellows told the judge that was a “derogatory” term for what he does.
Fellows was taken to the Rensselaer County Jail after his arrest and appeared by video link from that location. He appeared clean-cut, though at times he appeared to smirk when the camera was on him. He is being represented for now by Gene Primono, senior public defender in Albany, but his case is expected to be transferred to the Washington, D.C., public defender’s office.
Fellows told Bloomberg he drove to Washington after seeing a tweet from the president and said he went just to hear the president speak.
Bloomberg then wrote that Fellows not only went into the Capitol with the rioters, but propped his feet on a senator’s table while smoking a joint, heckled officers and posted videos online. It appears he was in the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon. A photograph also shows him sitting on a police motorcycle outside the Capitol wearing a fake red beard.
“I have no regrets,” Fellows told Bloomberg in the story. “I didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t break anything. I did trespass though, I guess.”
Stewart allowed Fellows to be released on an unsecured bond — in effect, on no bail — after being told Fellows’ financial situation meant he couldn’t afford a secured bond. The judge ordered Fellows to remain in the jurisdiction of the Northern District of New York, refrain from drug or alcohol use, and avoid arrest as conditions for remaining free. He must also agree do any counseling ordered for him.
He was specifically cautioned he couldn’t go to Washington except to appear for future court proceedings.
He replied, “I guess,” when asked by Stewart whether he understood all the conditions of his release.
Prior to that, Fellows had asked the judge if he could go to western Massachusetts — outside the 32-county Northern District of New York — and Stewart said no, and warned Fellows to take the proceeding seriously.
“I want to be sure you understand the seriousness of what is happening here,” the judge said to Fellows, who broke into the proceeding several times to ask questions, including about the location of his phone, vehicle and his wallet.
Stewart said Fellows could be jailed if he violates any of the conditions of his release.
Fellows was released even though the government considers him a flight risk, based on his having no stable residence and his behavior after the FBI contacted him.
On Saturday night, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rosenthal said Fellows had agreed to surrender to the FBI, but then didn’t, and lied about his location, turned off his cellphone and wrapped it in foil to hide its signal. He was tracked down anyway, and apprehended at a local motel. Despite the evasive behavior, Rosenthal said the government agreed to Fellows’ release.
Unprompted, Fellows said he only broke his agreement to surrender because he said a “constitutional counsel” he didn’t name had told him he didn’t have to surrender if he hadn’t been presented with a warrant for his arrest.
The federal District Court in Washington, which will be handling most if not all the cases involving the Jan. 6 attacks, has yet to set a date for Fellows’ first appearance.