The Indianapolis attorney charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol is asking a federal judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him for lack of evidence.
Quentin G. Cantrell filed the motion to dismiss on June 30, asking Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss with prejudice the four federal charges filed against him: knowingly entering and remaining in a restricted building; knowingly engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct with the intent to impede government business; violent entry and disorderly conduct, namely, willfully and knowingly uttering loud, threatening or abusive language, or engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct with the intent to impede a session of Congress; and violent entry and disorderly conduct, namely, parading, demonstrating or picketing in any of the Capitol buildings.
Cantrell was charged in March and pleaded not guilty to the four misdemeanors in April. He was charged alongside two of his relatives, Jared and Eric Cantrell, known collectively in court documents as the “Cantrell Cousins.”
The criminal complaint tied the three men to the Capitol riot through cellphone data, social media posts and closed-circuit TV footage.
Quentin was alleged to have entered the Capitol through the Upper West Terrace at about 2:37 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, then exited the building about two minutes later. Video footage also allegedly shows him attempting to climb down an exterior Capitol wall.
Cantrell does not seem to dispute his presence at the Capitol on that day. But in the motion to dismiss, his lawyer — David Issa of Houston — argued the government “has failed to produce any evidence to show the requisite mens rea of QGC,” identifying his client by his initials.
“The evidence produced thus far showing QGC’s conduct on January 6 appears to consist of two CCTV videos, which show him peacefully entering the Capitol Building, passing several police officers, none of whom make any effort to dissuade him from passing, and then peacefully departing less than two minutes later,” Issa wrote.
“The government has also produced other videos, from which still photos in the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint were presumably taken,” the motion continues. “One shows QGC peacefully walking to Capitol Hill. Another shows him standing peacefully on the West Terrace. One shows him attempting to depart the Capitol by attempting (unsuccessfully), to climb down over the wall of the northwest stairway.
“… (T)he Government’s evidence is legally insufficient to permit a reasonable jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, each of the elements of any of the four counts.”
Cantrell’s motion first argues there is no evidence that he knew the Capitol building was restricted.
The motion points to the actions that day of the Capitol Police, who “(stood) aside and (made) no effort to either physically or orally dissuade the crowd from entering.” Also, it says then-President Donald Trump “quite literally invited attendees to go to Capitol Hill” during the “Stop the Steal” rally, where he told the crowd, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol Building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
“Whether Mr. Trump’s invitation was appropriate is a matter of intense and recent debate,” the motion says, “but, even if it was improper, those in attendance, including QGC, would have reasonably inferred from the invitation by the President of the United States that they were permitted to go to the Capitol.”
Next, the motion argues there was insufficient evidence that Cantrell intended to “impede government business,” or that he acted violently or disruptively. In fact, it says, “There is insufficient evidence that QGC even so much as raised his voice.”
“There is no evidence that QGC was ever loud, threatening, or abusive at any time on January 6,” according to the motion.
“… The Court has previously held that the government business on Capitol Hill was halted ‘well before’ 2:57 p.m. … ,” the motion continues, referencing another Jan. 6 case. “… QGC, who entered the building at approximately 2:37:45pm, and exited at about 2:39:40pm likewise could not have impeded government business.”
Lastly, Cantrell argues the charges against him should be dismissed because his conduct was “minimal and nonserious.”
“He is not carrying any signs, and he is not wearing ‘black-block’ or any other uniform of contemporary protestors,” the motion argues. “He isn’t even wearing a T-shirt with a political slogan.”
McFadden had not ruled on the motion at Indiana Lawyer deadline. The case is United States of America v. Cantrell, et al., 1:22-mj-00051.
In addition to Cantrell’s base arguments, the motion to dismiss provides an inside look at how the federal government is approaching the massive amounts of discovery related to the nationwide Jan. 6 cases.
Issa, Cantrell’s attorney, outlines two groups of discovery in the motion: case-specific discovery made available via portal known as USAfx, and “global discovery” made available via evidence.com or another platform known as “Relativity.” All discovery has been made available to defense counsel on a rolling basis.
According to the motion, the case-specific discovery against Quentin Cantrell includes six CCTV videos from the Capitol as well as 14 documents from Verizon that are seemingly being used as identification tools. The government has also provided 200 documents labeled “Serials-Sensitive” that, according to the motion, include roughly half a dozen documents also apparently used to identify Cantrell.
As for the global discovery, that information has been made available in 16 batches, Issa wrote. The second batch was more than 1 terabyte of data, equivalent to about 1 trillion bytes, while the third comprised more than three additional terabytes.
“Although this database is sufficiently enormous as to render a complete review challenging, judging by the general categories of information described in the Department of Justice’s letters, it seems an unlikely place to find the Government’s prima facie case,” he wrote.
Issa raised the issue of insufficient evidence with a newly appointed DOJ prosecutor on June 15, according to the motion.
The ensuing conversations in mid-to-late June occurred against a deadline of July 1, when a hearing was scheduled before McFadden. At Cantrell’s arraignment in April, the judge had asked that all defendant-specific discovery be turned over by then.
Following his June 15 email, Issa wrote that he “understood the prosecutor to indicate that there was evidence upon which the Government could make its prima facie showing of mens rea, which might be found in the databases containing the ‘global discovery’ … .”
“If this were permitted, it would render the Government’s plan for discovery unreasonable,” Issa wrote in the motion. “These databases are titanic.”
He continued, “But it appears that the truth is worse than even this. When counsel for QGC asked the Government to identify its prima facie evidence, the Government responded by saying ‘it is possible’ that the Government ‘will come into possession’ of evidence depicting QGC.
“The hypothetical possibility that the Government could possibly find some evidence at some point in the future should not allow it to circumnavigate the Court’s scheduling order.”
Arguing that Cantrell is being “prejudiced” by case-related restrictions while the prosecution continues, Issa moved for dismissal with prejudice, writing, “None of this should continue if the Government cannot produce evidence sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to find that a crime has been committed.”
The July 1 hearing proceeded as scheduled, but the minute entry included in the online case record makes no mention of the motion to dismiss or the discovery challenges. A status conference was set for Sept. 20.