Chicago cop Karol Chwiesiuk's trial for federal January 6 charges gets underway

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Oren Oppenheim WLS logo
Thursday, August 10, 2023
CPD officer on trial for federal January 6 charges
According to federal law enforcement, Officer Karol Chwiesiuk, along with his sister, barged into the Capitol with the violent crowd on January 6, 2021.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago police officer is on trial in Washington, D.C., fighting charges he breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to participate in the mob attack.

According to federal law enforcement, Officer Karol Chwiesiuk, along with his sister, barged into the Capitol with the violent crowd.

In a federal court Wednesday, the prosecution finished presenting its case against the Chicago lawman, who is charged with disorderly conduct, disrupting government business and entering a restricted building among other misdemeanor counts.

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There were a number of witnesses to the violence, but none who actually saw the Chwiesiuks.

Special Agent Elizabeth Glavey was with the vice president's Secret Service detail on January 6, 2021, which she testified would include taking a bullet for the vice president and his family members. She said that the security detail had planned for a long day, knowing that there would be objectors to the vote certification, but that the beginning of the day went as planned with Vice President Mike Pence's arrival.

After objections to the vote in Arizona, she soon could hear protestors and see crowds. A decision was made to relocate the motorcade and she walked through the planned emergency route. On her way back she heard glass breaking.

"I saw protestors," she said. "They were already in the building."

Glavey was notified protestors had made it to the second floor where the vice president was in his office; she was at the bottom of the stairwell by the office as Pence and his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte made their way downstairs, then to the relocation area on Capitol grounds.

There was "no indication who [the] threat was for," and the intruders had not been screened for weapons, Glavey testified.

She testified it was the closest she had ever seen a protected to danger. She did not see the defendants.

Supervisory Special Agent John Coleman testified next. He has been involved in the investigation into the defendants.

Coleman testified about closed circuit video that shows the Chwiesiuk siblings both outside and inside of the Capitol building on January 6, which was synced and matched up with open source video, including social media video and news media footage.

Alongside government exhibits of the video and other footage, Coleman testified that the footage shows the Chwiesiuk siblings walked in proximity to Oregan Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley's office, and in the underground crypt in the Capitol building, before exiting the Capitol.

READ MORE | Chicago police officer and sister vow to fight January 6th charges

Karol Chwiesiuk is visible in footage from far-right media personality Anthime Gionet, known as Baked Alaska, and other social media video.

Coleman also testified about emails found in Karol Chwiesiuk's Gmail about January 6 events, like campaign emails from Donald Trump and Ali Alexannder, and Expedia rental car bookings for a car to be picked up and returned in Chicago.

Coleman said investigators made a forensic copy of Chwiesiuk's phone and found images, including selfies, of the siblings in the Capitol on January 6 among protestors, as well as texts between Karol and other individuals about visiting D.C. and entering the Capitol, including images from outside the Capitol, and texts between the Chwiesiuk siblings about hotel bookings for January 2021 in D.C. and the January 6 events in D.C.

"The strength of the case isn't witness testimony. Because it's true. We don't have that many witnesses who put them on the scene," said ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer. "The strength of this case is the strength of so many of these cases; it's photographs, it's social media postings, it's closed circuit television. It's global positioning, it's all the technologies that pretty clearly do put him on the scene in these places, surrounded by people screaming and yelling and acting violently. At the end of the day, that makes for a pretty good case."

Defense attorney Nishay Sanan cross-examined Coleman, highlighting that the agent was not in D.C. on January 6, 2021 and is investigating based on reviewing video footage and other records.

Sanan questioned Coleman over whether the Chwiesiuks went past visible barriers and over the time that they spent in the Capitol. Sanan also noted officers visible in video footage in the Capitol's crypt when the Chwiesiuks were there.

The third witness for the U.S. government said he has been with the United States Capitol Police for 20 years. He testified that the Capitol was not open for tours on January 6, 2021 and that the entrance in one of the government exhibits of testimony against the Chwiesiuks is always closed off to the public to the best of his knowledge.

He said he sustained minor injuries while holding back a protestor and then decamped to patrol cars to protect them, and later went into the Capitol crypt to help other officers. He did not interact or see the Chwiesiuks.

The U.S. government then rested its case and the judge directed the jury to leave for a break while she spoke with both sides' attorneys.

After some discussion, the judge asked for briefs by Thursday morning and adjourned the trial for the day.

Soffer said it will be unusual if Chwiesiuk takes the witness stand in his own defense as scheduled Thursday. Very few defendants do, but because he is a cop he may have little choice.

"The defendant has to convince the jury of what he was thinking in this case that he didn't intend or didn't know that he wasn't lawfully permitted to do what he was doing. There's almost no question. That's what he's going to try to convince the jury of here," Soffer said.

The D.C. judge denied a defense motion for acquittal on all but one charge that she is reserving judgment. That one count accuses Chwiesiuk with entering a senator's office "willfully and knowingly and with the intent to disrupt the orderly conduct of official business." Both sides have to better explain their positions on that for the judge to rule.