Thomas Sibick is accused of ripping off DC Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone’s badge and radio during the melee that left Officer Fanone unconscious. The Buffalo, New York, resident tried to lie his way out of an arrest, after video evidence—including images of Sibick showing off a stolen riot shield after the attack—was shared with the FBI online. Sibick faces up to 15 years in prison for his part in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and insurrection, with charges that include the assault and robbery of Officer Fanone.
On Tuesday, after being denied bond since his arrest in March, including a second denial from the same judge less than a month ago, U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson ordered that the 35-year-old Sibick be released into the custody of his parents, in upstate New York, on conditions. One of those conditions is that Sibick is prohibited from watching any political television shows. But there is more.
When Sibick finally turned himself in to authorities, it came after first lying about his participation in the assault on Officer Fanone, then lying about the badge and radio he took from the fallen law enforcement officer. According to one of the complaints filed by investigators, Sibick first claimed he hadn’t taken anything off of the officer, then claimed he had dropped both the radio and badge immediately after grabbing them from Fanone. Then, he claims, he dropped the items into a trash bin somewhere in Washington, D.C. Sibick later told investigators that he dumped the items in a trash bin somewhere in Buffalo, New York. And finally, the government was able to produce Officer Fanone’s stolen badge after Sibick told them he had buried it in the backyard of his home.
The violent nature of the charges against Sibick had all but guaranteed he would remain in jail until his hearing. His lawyer, Stephen Brennwald, has argued that Sibick is a helpful person, as attested to by jail officials. Sibick’s lawyer has also argued that his client was actually trying to pull Officer Fanone to safety—not attempting to steal his badge. This argument, which was posited earlier in October in hopes of securing a release for Sibick, was denied by Judge Jackson at the time, who said: “He took his own unique, independent, purposeful action. The video clearly shows moving his left hand in and then his right hand in. Not at the same time, moving in with both hands to pull up.”
According to Law & Crime, there are a few reasons Judge Jackson decided to take a chance on releasing Sibick into his parents’ custody: mental health; deteriorating conditions in the jail where the January 6, dunderheads are housed (particularly for someone in a possible mental health crisis); and right-wing propaganda’s heightened rhetoric and misinformation as a trigger for someone with unmanaged mental health considerations.
Specifically, Judge Jackson cited a new mental health diagnosis presented by Sibick’s defense. The details of that diagnosis are not clear. Judge Jackson told Sibick during the bond hearing that she was “very glad to hear that the defendant thinks with the appropriate diagnosis, he has a handle on it now, on this new approach and new diagnosis.”
Telling the court that she did not feel Sibick’s ongoing detention has been a mistake, Judge Jackson explained: “His detention was not a disgrace to our country. Mr. Sibick’s actions were.” But that new evidence was being presented in this case, and that along with the new mental health diagnosis led the judge to make this consideration.
Sibick’s lawyer submitted a letter from prison officials that said Sibick was voluntarily asking to be put “in the hole,” solitary confinement, in order to stay away from other Jan. 6 insurgents and their cult-like rituals. According to Sibick’s lawyer, Sibick’s good behavior toward the jail staff and his reluctance to participate in the “so-called Patriot Wing of the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility’s” bizarre jingoism—like singing the Star-Spangled Banner at attention every night at 9 p.m.—had led to harassment from fellow MAGAs.
“I think the court may know this but every night at 9:00 p.m., the folks there stand up and sing the Star-Spangled Banner,” Brennwald said. “I was on the phone with [Sibick] a month ago and we talked, and in the middle of our talk he said ‘I have to put the phone down, I’ll be right back. They’ll be angry of I don’t go over there.’”
“It was literally this herd mentality,” Brennwald added. “They’re literally singing, most of them off-key, literally singing the song, almost cult-like. It was pretty scary actually.”
According to Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press, who has been at the courthouse covering these hearings, Judge Jackson gave the standard warnings about no firearms in the home, and no social media interaction for Sibick. “You must continue your medical or psychiatric treatment. You’re barred from possession on a firearm and you’re on home incarceration except for medical or legal. You’ll submit to location monitoring and pay the cost based on your ability to do so.” She said that if a fixed employment opportunity presented itself, Sibick could appeal to the court for consideration and that he could go once a week with his parents to church.
Brennwald told the court that Sibick’s mother is left-leaning, while his father is right-leaning. “I’ll tell you this, we were finishing up our dinner last night and I asked, ‘How do you get along, one a Republican and a Democrat?’ And my client’s father cited Reagan and Tip O’Neill. He cited Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If you ordered them not to watch TV, he would be fine with that. He would like his son home.”
As for the prohibition of “political” media for Sibick, this reportedly came after Judge Jackson inquired about what media or person had helped fuel the fired-up Sibick to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Brennwald told the judge that after consulting with his client, “I thought it might have been OANN or Newsmax, but it wasn’t. It was Fox News… He was literally watching Fox News and in a manic phase that day, over a period of days.”
Eugene Sibick, Thomas’s father and a former Naval officer, told the judge that he no longer watched political news at home and this would not be an issue. A fundraiser set up under the name “Eugene Sibick,” titled “My son is a Political Prisoner,” might contradict this assertion. Whether this account belongs to the Sibick family is not verified.
Here is a video of Sibick taking both the badge and radio off of Fanone during the chaos that left Officer Fanone badly hurt.
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