Daniel Rodriguez, a pro-Trump extremist who electroshocked Metropolitan Police Officer Mike Fanone on Jan. 6, was in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday trying to get his videotaped confession to the FBI tossed on the grounds that special agents engaged in “coercive questioning” and that Rodriguez wasn’t properly advised of his rights.
But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson indicated on Tuesday that she’ll likely allow most of Rodriguez’s admission to be used if he goes to trial, finding that only a brief portion of the interview that took place before Rodriguez was advised of his Miranda rights had to be suppressed. She’ll issue a final ruling down the road, after watching the entirety of the more than three-hour interview herself.
Rodriguez, also known as Danny Rodriguez and D.J. Rodriguez, was arrested by the FBI in March, a month after HuffPost named him as the Capitol rioter who electroshocked Fanone when he was seized by the violent mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
After the FBI arrested Rodriguez in March, agents told him that he needed to talk to them to combat the story being told by “antifa, BLM, and the Huffington Post.”
A tearful Rodriguez called himself “so stupid,” “an asshole,” and a “fucking piece of shit” during the FBI interview, and worried that his “mom’s gonna find out” what he did.
Portions of the videotaped interrogation were played in court on Tuesday. They show Rodriguez, in a tie-dyed white sweatshirt, being questioned about his activities on Jan. 6.
Former President Donald Trump, during a speech before cops in 2017, encouraged police to brutalize suspects by slamming their heads into car doors when they place them under arrest. Attorneys for Rodriguez, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who attempted to join the U.S. Army after Trump became president, tried to argue that the traumatic experience of being arrested by the FBI at his home at 6 a.m. was coercive.
Rodriguez’s federal public defender questioned FBI Special Agent Nate Elias, who took custody of Rodriguez at the scene of the arrest and was one of two FBI special agents who questioned Rodriguez at the FBI office, about the number of law enforcement vehicles that showed up to Rodriguez’s home and the flashbangs the team used while taking Rodriguez into custody. (Rodriguez shook his head vigorously in court, suggesting that more than one flashbang had been used during his arrest.)
Kimberly Paschall, a federal prosecutor, argued that the Miranda warnings that Rodriguez had received after his arrest were meant to combat the coercive nature of an arrest and said that law enforcement could never do their jobs otherwise. She said that when Rodriguez was questioned in an FBI office with a bottle of water sitting in front of him, he had been removed from the more coercive environment of his arrest.
“Almost every arrest is coercive,” Paschall said. But what happened in Rodriguez’s case, she said, is exactly what is supposed to happen. Rodriguez, she said, clearly understood his rights and was willing to talk anyway.
“He knows if he wants to invoke Miranda, he can,” Paschall said.
Rodriguez, who is being held in the Northern Neck Regional Jail outside of Washington, D.C., was wearing a forest green prison jumpsuit during his court appearance on Tuesday. He chatted with his federal public defenders, who are based in Las Vegas, asking them how their trip to the capital was going and whether they’d get to see the sights before they flew back home. (Because of the massive scope of the Jan. 6 investigation, both prosecutors and federal public defenders from all across the country have been brought in to help.)
Under Jackson’s ruling, Rodriguez’s pre-Miranda admissions won’t be admissible at trial. In that portion of the video, Rodriguez describes himself as “so weak” as he cries about his actions that led to his arrest.
“Oh, God. I shouldn’t be crying,” he said before being advised of his rights. “I’m a grown man and I knew what I was doing.”
After being told he had a right to remain silent and get an attorney, and signing a form acknowledging those rights, Rodriguez went on to confess to electroshocking Fanone, who suffered a heart attack.
“I really don’t know exactly why I Tased him,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, when I Tased him, I really ― you know, like, when you do something, you’re like, goddamnit, why did I do that? I just ― I had ― got caught up in the moment and I didn’t really think. I didn’t think about him and his family and what was going to happen to him.”
Jackson did not formally rule on all of the elements of the defense motion to suppress Rodriguez’s confession but said her ruling suppressing his pre-Miranda statements shouldn’t have much of an impact on the case.
“I think you can try this case without it, it’s not going to make that big of a difference one way or another,” Jackson told prosecutors during the hearing.
The FBI has made more than 650 arrests in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a bit over one-fourth of the total number of potential defendants who either unlawfully entered the Capitol building or assaulted law enforcement and members of the media outside. The FBI is still looking for over 350 defendants who engaged in violence on Jan. 6, including more than 250 members of the pro-Trump mob who assaulted law enforcement.