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Federal judge in DC halts release of Kansas Proud Boy pending hearing

Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The debate over the release of a Proud Boy from Olathe, Kansas, pending his trial on charges involving the deadly U.S. Capitol invasion has taken another turn.

For now, William “Billy” Chrestman, 47, remains in custody in Kansas — at least until a hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The latest action is an indication of how strongly prosecutors believe that Chrestman was a key player in the Capitol insurrection. Many others who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 — including two other Proud Boys from the Kansas City area — have been released on their own recognizance pending trial.

The back-and-forth over Chrestman’s release began Friday when Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara ordered that Chrestman be released pending his trial on charges of conspiracy and other offenses.

O’Hara, who said the decision was “a very close call” and that he believed the government’s case against Chrestman was overwhelming, placed conditions on Chrestman’s release that included in-home incarceration and electronic monitoring.

Federal prosecutors in Kansas immediately filed a motion to halt Chrestman’s release while they appealed, and on Saturday, O’Hara ruled that he would hear that motion Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.

 

But also on Saturday, prosecutors in Washington, D.C., where the charges against Chrestman originated, filed an emergency motion with the court in the District of Columbia to stop Chrestman’s release pending a review of O’Hara’s decision.

“This Court has the authority to stay the Magistrate Judge from the District of Kansas’s order to release Defendant pending trial in this case,” prosecutors said in their motion. “Moreover, this Court has the authority to overrule that decision and order that the defendant be detained and transferred to the District of Columbia pending trial.”

The Washington, D.C., prosecutors argued that Chrestman should remain in custody “because not only did the defendant violently enter the U.S. Capitol without lawful authority, but he also went in carrying a dangerous weapon, that is, an axe handle, that he concealed initially with a flag.”

They said the evidence against Chrestman “weighs strongly in favor of detention.”

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