Feb. 3-Less than three weeks before his trial on charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol is due to start, a Trinity man now says he wants a new lawyer and to restart plea negotiations.
Bradley Stuart Bennett, 42, told U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in a pretrial conference Thursday that he contacted the federal Public Defender's Office just that morning asking for the office to represent him.
Bennett - who faces six charges, including one felony - had been representing himself in hearings since December 2021, when he fired Albert Watkins of St. Louis, who had represented Bennett since shortly after his arrest in March 2021. Watkins had negotiated a plea deal, but Bennett rejected it.
Details of the plea offer have not been made public, but in previous hearings prosecutors said it was similar to the deal accepted a year ago today by Bennett's former girlfriend and co-defendant, Elizabeth Rose Williams of Kerrville, Texas, who pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a restricted area.
Bennett also declined last year to seek a public defender, instead trying to hire a new attorney and eventually deciding to represent himself while proceeding toward trial. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Feb. 21 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Boasberg sounded dumbfounded by Bennett's abrupt reversal.
"Now you say, today, 13 1/2 months later, that you finally contacted the public defender's service? Do you understand why I might be skeptical this is just a delaying tactic?" he said.
Bennett insisted he had been trying to find a private lawyer but repeatedly was told by all he contacted that they were not taking on new cases related to the Capitol riot.
"It's been very difficult to find someone that there's a rapport there and someone I feel I can trust," he said. "It's been very frustrating to me."
He also said he felt overwhelmed by his situation and sudden notoriety.
"It just comes out of not knowing what to do, your honor," he said.
Boasberg said he would not delay the trial for now, but he set another hearing for Feb. 9 to get an update from Bennett, and his lawyer, if he has one.
Bennett said he was thankful and again assured Boasberg he was earnest.
"I certainly want to get my life out of the train station and get my life moving again," he said.