WASHINGTON — US District Judge Jia M. Cobb asked a federal prosecutor Friday to explain the Justice Department’s handling of a misdemeanor case against a Jan. 6 defendant who admitted he «fought» with officers. inside the Capitol, including an officer who later died. by suicide
David Walls-Kaufman, a Washington, DC resident, was supposed to be sentenced Friday, but Cobb delayed sentencing after receiving information from the officer’s family. The family is filing a civil lawsuit accusing Walls-Kaufman of assault and of playing a role in the death of Jeffrey Smith, a Metropolitan Police Department officer who committed suicide after the Jan. 6 attack. Cobb, on Friday, asked the department for his opinion on the evidence of the alleged assault, noting that he was only charged with a misdemeanor.
Walls-Kaufman, who lived a few blocks from the US Capitol and told investigators he previously worked for a congressional committee, was arrested in June 2022 and charged with four counts. His arrest occurred after he was identified by the «sedition huntersonline detectives who have collected evidence of the January 6 attack, and after Walls-Kaufman was sued by Smith’s widow.
Officer Smith body camera footage, which was released due to the civil lawsuit, appeared to confirm that Walls-Kaufman grabbed Smith’s baton during a fight on January 6, and that Smith appeared shaken afterward. The footage also showed that, later in the evening, Smith was separately struck by a flying metal object that was thrown at the police line by an unknown person as police tried to clear the west front of the US Capitol.
Smith’s widow said the late officer was a different person when he returned from work after Jan. 6. She sought medical attention that night, but the police and fire clinic were overwhelmed and cared for dozens of officers who sustained injuries that day. He died by suicide the day he returned to duty. Last March, the DC Police and Fire Relief and Retirement Board determined that Smith’s injuries on Jan. 6 were «the sole and direct cause,» stating that his death was in the line of duty.
In January, Walls-Kaufman pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of «parade, rally, or picket at a Capitol building,» admitting In her agreed-upon offense statement that she entered the Capitol through the rotunda doors on the east side of the building «shortly after they were first raped» and proceeded to the office of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. There, prosecutors say video shows him disabling the lock at the top of a double door, allowing more rioters to enter and exit the room where Pelosi was taking conference calls. Paredes-Kaufman, prosecutors saysnapped a photo of a laptop Pelosi used for her Zoom calls shortly before another rioter grabbed it.
Walls-Kaufman soon made his way to the House chamber, where Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot when she jumped through a broken window leading to the House floor’s Speaker’s Lobby, as lawmakers evacuated. Walls-Kaufman admitted that he «fought with the officers» and was forced out of the Capitol at around 2:57 p.m., about a half hour after he entered the building.
Justice Department Prosecutors sought 60 days in prison for Walls-Kaufman, saying he «played down his conduct» and even claimed «that he had gone to the Capitol to help an old lady and an old man,» a story prosecutors called a «fanciful tale.»
They wrote that Walls-Kaufman was «slow to recognize and obey the police officers’ orders to leave the building» and told one of the officers, «Get your fucking hand off me.» They said Walls-Kaufman remained on the Capitol grounds for hours, until at least 5:37 p.m., when he was ordered to leave.
«Walls-Kaufman also described having served as a ‘gopher’ on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee in 1980 or 1981, and as such claimed he was familiar with the Capitol and simply walked around to find a way out, a claim denied by your thirty minutes inside the Capitol,» they wrote. During his interview with the FBI, they said, Walls-Kaufman «discussed at length misinformation about the ‘theft’ of the 2020 election.»
Smith’s family and many online detectives believe Walls-Kaufman’s conduct warrants more serious charges than misdemeanor «parading.» Smith’s widow, Erin Smith, in a letter to Judge Cobb, wrote that Walls-Kaufman «should be sentenced to the maximum amount of jail time», writing that Walls-Kaufman should have known the rules about entering federal buildings as a DC resident.
«The fight between Walls-Kaufman and my husband can be viewed on Jeffrey’s body cam in addition to the record of injuries received during the altercation, which include fractures to the face and suborbital cavities, as well as traumatic brain injuries and concussion, all mentioned by Dr. Arden,» wrote Erin Smith. «As the body cam video cuts to a frame-by-frame view, Walls-Kaufman struck Jeffrey at least twice in the face with his own baton, after taking control of the Capitol. Walls-Kaufman is a trained martial artist and used his training for malicious conduct that day when he came into contact with the police.»
Erin Smith wrote that Walls-Kaufman chose to «physically engage police officers, including my husband, after trespassing into a federal building and using his martial arts skills for evil.»
Judge Cobb, after receiving Erin Smith’s letter, wanted to know more about the allegations and decided not to sentence Walls-Kaufman on Friday until he heard additional arguments.
“The case seems a little different than the case that I thought was preceding when I pleaded guilty,” Judge Cobb said in court on Friday. «There’s a big difference between a fight … and an accusation that someone used a baton to hit an officer.»
Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Kiok said in court Friday that the government believed «there was physical contact» between Jeffrey Smith and Walls-Kaufman, but said he did not believe there was enough evidence to support an assault conviction and that calling it a fight was wrong. a «deliberately chosen word».
Kiok said the incident took place during a «very tense situation» and that Walls-Kaufman’s actions did not «rise to the level» of an assault charge, and that it was not the government’s position that Smith was struck by the cane in Walls- Kaufman’s hands.
Judge Cobb said her role was to «seek the truth» and noted that she reviewed the video frame by frame. «I see [Walls-Kaufman’s] Hands on baton,» Cobb said. «I see Officer Smith fall forward.»
Attorney Hughie Hunt, who is representing Walls-Kaufman in her civil case, called the proceeding a «sentence by ambush» and opposed allowing Erin Smith or Jeffrey Smith’s father, Richard, to address the court, saying that they were trying to promote a lawsuit in a criminal case.
“What they are trying to do is continue their civil case at a sentencing hearing,” Hunt said.
Kiok said the family should be allowed to speak in court, noting that Jeffrey Smith would be allowed to speak if he were still alive.
“There are people who loved Jeffrey Smith and were touched by his passing,” Kiok said, noting that the story of what happened to the officer went beyond Walls-Kaufman.
Judge Cobb said it was a «unique situation», noting that she could examine the video evidence herself and try to determine what happened and whether that should be taken into account in her sentencing.
«I just want to know, in fact, if Mr. Kaufman hit anybody,» he said, noting that there is «a lot of range in terms of what the final sentence will be,» from probation to six months in prison.
She set another hearing for May 19 and apologized to the Smith family for the delay, but said she was willing to allow members of Jeffrey Smith’s family to speak at the next hearing.