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East Texas man accused of federal crimes related to the Capitol riots asks for pretrial release
  • Updated

An East Texas man held on federal charges related to participating in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot has asked for pretrial release and claims he “did not act out of criminal intent but out of sense of duty,” according to court documents.

Alex Kirk Harkrider, 34, of Carthage, is in federal custody awaiting trial and is one of two East Texans indicted on charges related to the riots.

A request to revoke the detention order and modify the bond conditions was filed Thursday by Harkrider’s attorney Kira Anne West out of Washington, D.C.

“Defendant through counsel, respectfully requests that he be released on personal recognizance,” the motion said. “If that request is denied Defendant requests as an alternative that he be released on Third Party Custody and placed into the High Intensive Supervision Program of the Pretrial Services Agency conditioned on reasonable conditions.”

West said Harkrider would be willing to submit to GPS monitoring by pretrial services in Tyler or house arrest.

Harkrider was indicted on charges of civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, theft of government property, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on capitol grounds or buildings, disorderly conduct in a capitol building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building in the District Court for the District of Columbia.

Ryan Taylor Nichols, of Longview, is charged with civil disorder obstruction of an official proceeding entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on capitol grounds or buildings, disorderly conduct in a capitol building, assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon, and act of physical violence in the capitol grounds or buildings in the District Court for the District of Columbia.

Both men are accused of interfering with law enforcement performing official duties, attempting to impede or obstruct an official proceeding before Congress through civil disorder, and both men are accused of unlawfully entering the Capitol building with deadly or dangerous weapons. According to court documents, Harkrider was armed with a tomahawk ax and Nichols with a crowbar and pepper spray.

According to the request, Harkrider and Nichols attended the “Save America” rally on Jan. 6 where then-President Donald Trump encouraged those in attendance to march down and to the U.S. Capitol and protest the certification of the Electoral College results for the 2020 presidential election.

“There were also reports in the weeks leading up to this event that Antifa and BLM protesters would be present,” West claimed in court documents. “Therefore, Mr. Harkrider had a tomahawk for self-defense and no other reason.”

The conspiracy theory claiming members of antifa stormed the Capitol was deemed false. West described Harkrider as wearing “what in Texas would be considered street clothes, with the addition of a protective vest.”

Harkrider claims he was responding to the president’s call to action, documents show.

“Like thousands of others, Mr. Harkrider was responding to the entreaties of the then Commander-in-Chief, former President Donald Trump,” court documents said. “The President maintained that the election had been ‘stolen’ and it was the duty of loyal citizens to ‘stop the steal.’ Defendant did not act out of criminal intent but out of sense of duty.”

The attorney said people may not find Harkrider’s political beliefs to be rational.

“In the heat of the moment, after you’ve ‘heard the call’ from your President, you may forgo reason and listen to those around you,” court documents said.

The attorney also claimed that Harkrider was, quite literally, pushed into the situation.

“People were pushing him forward and he could not navigate,” West said, referring to the moments after a window was broken. “People started crawling through the broken window. People continued going in and out of the window. At one point, Mr. Harkrider stepped into the window to flee the tear gas. It was hard to breathe. No one told Mr. Harkrider to leave, but after a few minutes, Mr. Harkrider and Mr. Nichols decided to leave the Capitol. They walked to the uber pick up zone and went back to their hotel. There was a great deal of confusion that day.”

At about 6 a.m. Jan. 18, Harkrider was arrested at his home in Carthage.

“He was awakened by a crash, banging on the door (police kicked it in), and two flash bangs were set off,” court document said. “He was in a daze and instantly had flashbacks of his time as a Marine where he saw daily combat which included shooting and killing. With tears in his eyes, he begged the officers not to shoot his dog, Opie.”

With a search warrant, law enforcement took items from Harkrider’s home, including a table leg. Harkrider is also accused of stealing a table leg from the Capitol.

“They also questioned Mr. Harkrider first without giving him his Miranda warning,” West claimed in court documents. “He was ‘in custody.’ Mr. Harkrider cooperated with the officers.”

On Jan. 22, a federal judge ruled Hardrider and Nichols would be held without bond, awaiting trial due to “clear and convincing evidence that there are no conditions that would reasonably assure the safety of the community and has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a serious risk that the defendant will flee or not appear in court when required.”

In a detention order for Harkrider, Judge K. Nicole Mitchell said she was concerned about text messages discussing bringing firearms to the Capitol as well as evidence that he did bring a weapon to the Capitol.

“The defendant’s mental health history and past abuse of alcohol also support detention,” Mitchell said of Harkrider in the order.

Harkrider and Nichols had posted images and videos of themselves involved in the riots at the Capitol to their social media accounts.

Investigators found photos, screenshots and videos from Harkrider and Nichols depicting them taking part in the riot, according to court documents. One photo, the affidavit said, showed the men in the Capitol with the caption “We’re in.”

These photos were included as exhibits in the arrest affidavit along with video analysis.

One video shows Harkrider leaning out from the Capitol through a broken window.

Harkrider is also accused of sharing a Snapchat from inside the building that said “We’re in. 2 people killed already. ... Give us liberty, or give us death. We won’t stand for it.”

West claimed that “the snapchat could be easily doctored.”

“The evidence submitted by the government is full of misrepresentations and assumptions,” West said. “There is no evidence that Mr. Harkrider was part of a violent mob. Rather, he found himself surrounded by thousands of people protesting and at that time, he still believed he was engaged in a peaceful protest.”

West further claims that Harkrider’s detention is making it difficult to prepare a defense for him.

“His ability to prepare a defense will be hampered by his pretrial incarceration and currently it is nearly impossible to speak to Mr. Harkrider more than once a week because the jail staff are overwhelmed with requests for video calls,” West said in the motion. “Reviewing the evidence alongside a client during the COVID-19 pandemic is a near impossibility because undersigned counsel cannot travel to the jail and because of the protective order in place.”

Several letters from family and friends were filed with the motion in support of Harkrider’s character.

The motion to revoke the detention order for Harkrider was also filed in Nichols’ case but with Harkrider’s filing. It is unclear if Nichols is also requesting release. Attorneys for Nichols could not be reached Monday.

Panola County conducts peanut butter, jelly drive for Mission Carthage

A total of 1,156 jars of peanut butter and jelly were delivered to Mission Carthage Monday after a communitywide drive for donations.

“The mission said they needed peanut butter and jelly, so we go them some peanut butter and jelly,” said Shona Guenther, director of marketing and admission at Briarcliff Skilled Nursing.

The donated jars will go into Mission Carthage’s monthly food boxes. Janet Ritter, account executive at Texas Home Health, said they’re always glad to help any way they can.

“These kids in our community are fixing to be out of school in another month, and this is going to feed them hopefully for a while,” Guenther said. “They’ll be able to come and get peanut butter and jelly, I mean all kids like peanut butter and jelly, so it’s just good for them to be able to have this, and it’s something that the mission needed to be able to give out. Helping the community.”

The drive was sponsored by Briarcliff Skilled Nursing, Texas Home Health, Heartsway Hospice, Winkler Place, The Village Salon and Allegiance Mobile Health.

“Basically we all work in some form or fashion of healthcare in the community, so it’s just part of our mission to give back,” Ritter said.

NWS: East Texas could see severe weather Wednesday
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The entire Ark-La-Tex region is under a slight risk of severe weather Wednesday afternoon and into the evening as a cold front sweeps through the area, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

Threats include damaging winds between 60-70 mph, large hail between a half-dollar and golf-ball sized, and isolated tornadoes.

“For all intents and purposes, you may as well go ahead and say the entire region is in the slight risk,” Meteorologist Matt Hemingway, adding that although Wednesday’s tornado threat is low, they cannot rule out the possibility of discrete cells forming ahead of the line and causing isolated tornadoes. Hemingway said the main risk threat is Wednesday afternoon through Wednesday night, with thunderstorms holding off until then. The National Weather Service is also monitoring severe weather potential for Thursday night into Friday, but that still has some uncertainty around it, and Hemingway said they would be issuing any risk updates as needed. Hemingway noted April is peak severe weather season in the region.

“We could see some heavy rain potential, obviously, leading into the next couple of days,” he said, adding “So we may see some isolated areas where heavy rainfall could cause some problems, but that’s a pretty (minor) threat.”

Texas Comedies to return to Carthage with Prohibition musical comedy

Texas Comedies is coming back to Carthage with a musical comedy all about Prohibition on Saturday, April 17 at the Esquire Theater in Carthage.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with retired Texas State Historian Bill O’Neal speaking at 6:30 p.m. and the play beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. They’re on sale only at the Panola County Chamber of Commerce. If the show isn’t sold out, there may be some tickets available at the door.

“I was talking to Bill O’Neal one day, this was right before COVID of course, and he said he had a talk about prohibition that was a hoot, and I said I think Texas Comedies has a show on Prohibition,” Carthage Main Street Manager Cindy Deloney said. “So I booked them and of course we rescheduled them a couple of times because of COVID, but we took Bill O’Neal’s notes and sent them to Texas Comedies so that they could be sure and put some local stuff in there. Bill O’Neal will talk about Prohibition in Panola County, and then we’ll go right into the musical comedy, which is always so much fun.”

The play, aptly titled “Prohibition,” is the newest edition to the group’s Texas History musicals series. Created by John Cecil and Texas Comedies, the show explores the epic struggle that dragged in temperancers, doughboys, German-Americans, suffragettes and gangsters, and culminated in a notorious era of criminality and vice, Deloney said.

“Texas Comedies has been doing very limited things, and only for the last few months, so they’re really ready to perform, so you can imagine it’s going to be a really fun night, because they’re going to be so hyped up to be performing,” Deloney said.

Texas Comedies is based out of Austin, and have previously performed at the Esquire in “Gangsters: a Bonnie & Clyde Musical Comedy” and “Murder in Carthage.”

MeritLife is located on 117 W Sabine St, suite 5. MeritLife is located on 117 W Sabine St, suite 5.