Capitol riot suspect claims FBI agent's stop at his Newburgh tattoo shop tainted case
Claims FBI agent posing as customer, asking questions taints case
The owner of a Newburgh tattoo parlor wants a judge to dismiss the Capitol riot charges against him or exclude certain evidence because of the covert way in which an FBI agent allegedly obtained it.
According to a new court motion made public this week, the off-duty agent came to Roberto Minuta's shop on Broadway for a tattoo and talked to him about the riot case while under the needle.
Minuta, 37, a 2002 Newburgh Free Academy graduate, is one of at least 16 members of the Oath Keepers militia charged with conspiracy and other crimes for their alleged roles in the pro-Donald Trump riots in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. He is free while awaiting trial and allowed to make monthly work trips to his Newburgh business from his home in Texas, where his family moved last year.
His court-appointed lawyer claims in the newly unsealed motion that a special agent from the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office called Minuta's shop, Casa Di Dolore, to schedule appointments on July 17 for a group to get identical tattoos. The agent then came to Casa Di Dolore for the tattoo and allegedly discussed the Capitol riot case with Minuta.
Minuta, who had been arrested at his business four months earlier, appears to have had no idea he was speaking to an FBI agent. The agent filed a formal interview report about their discussion five days later, and prosecutors later shared a copy with Minuta's lawyer as potential evidence in the case, according to the motion.
Minuta's lawyer, Jenifer Wicks, didn't say how long the two spoke or what Minuta was asked, other than a question about whether the conspiracy charge against him was a felony. The agent's report was submitted as a court exhibit but not made available to the public.
Wicks argues the covert interview violated Minuta's right to have a lawyer present when questioned by the government and his protection against self-incrimination. She has asked Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court in Washington to dismiss the case for that reason or else dismiss any evidence obtained from the interview.
Minuta and the other Oath Keepers defendants are due to make their latest appearance before Mehta by phone and video conference call on Wednesday.
Prosecutors allege that Minuta planned his trip to Washington with fellow militia members from various states and raced through D.C. to the Capitol in a golf cart after Trump supporters began storming the building. He is accused of illegally entering the Capitol and exchanging phone calls before and after the attack with Oath Keepers' founder Stewart Rhodes, as evidence of conspiracy by the group's members.
Even before his arrest, Minuta was featured in national media coverage because of videos circulated by internet sleuths that showed him providing security for Trump ally Roger Stone in D.C. before the riot and later berating police officers outside the Capitol. He was dressed for combat that day, with a tactical vest, gloves and goggles.
Nearly 600 people in all had been charged as of last week in connection with the Capitol riot, and 50 had so far pleaded guilty, CNN reported. About 140 police officers were hurt and five people died on Jan. 6 as rioters besieged the Capitol and tried to stop Congress from formalizing the 2020 presidential election results.