Seven months after Doug Jensen of Des Moines became one of the poster figures of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a Washington, D.C., judge has ordered his released from jail to home custody.
Jensen faces seven charges related to the riot. Widely viewed photos and videos show him confronting police and pursuing Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman up a flight of stairs inside the Capitol building.
He has been in custody since his arrest Jan. 9. In June, his attorneys filed a motion for pretrial release while his case moves through the court system.
Judge Timothy Kelly heard arguments at a June 24 hearing, and on Tuesday, announced that Jensen will be released to the custody of his wife under conditions Kelly characterized as "home incarceration." A federal statute requires defendants be held only if no combination of conditions can reasonably ensure the public's safety.
"Although this is a close case, I do believe… this ultimate standard is not met when I consider all the circumstances here," Kelly said.
Kelly cited factors in other Capitol riot cases, including the severity of the alleged offenses, whether the defendant had a leadership or coordinating role, and whether the person was armed during the attack.
"Mr. Jensen’s conduct falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of offenses that Jan. 6 defendants are charged with," Kelly said.
He said that the weight of the evidence and the severity of Jensen's alleged conduct could warrant detention, but less so than in many other cases in which defendants fought with police, damaged property or made clear threats.
Although Jensen did have a knife in his pocket during the riot, Kelly said there's no video evidence he ever tried to draw it or threaten anyone with it. And during his dramatic confrontation with Goodman, Kelly said Jensen failed to stop when directed but also did not raise his hands, even to defend himself, when Goodman brandished his baton.
In the video with Goodman, Jensen was wearing a shirt emblazoned with a logo for QAnon, which holds President Donald Trump was fighting an evil cabal led by Democrats and other liberal world figures. He has since disavowed the internet conspiracy theory. Kelly said that didn't weigh heavily for him, coming late as it did, but that it does separate Jensen from some of the other defendants who have not shown any signs of regret or acceptance of reality.
As for leadership or coordination, Kelly said the government's evidence in some respects weighs against that. He noted that Jensen was recorded repeatedly saying that the mob was there to storm the White House — apparently not realizing the target was a different building.
"It’s hard to imagine Mr. Jensen planned or coordinated the events of Jan. 6 when he had no basic understanding where he even was that day," Kelly said, noting later that "although Mr. Jensen told the FBI vaguely that he was ‘all about revolution,’ there is no evidence he has the capability to help plan another Jan. 6 type of event."
More: 'I'm all about a revolution:' Prosecutors urge Capitol riot suspect Doug Jensen remain in custody until trial
Conditions for release
The conditions Kelly imposed for Jensen's release are designed to keep it that way. Jensen must remain at home under GPS monitoring, leaving only for court hearings, medical reasons or other purposes the judge specifically approves. He is forbidden from accessing the internet, and all internet-capable devices in the home must be password protected to ensure he cannot use them.
He must also comply with any drug or mental health screenings or treatment arranged by probation officials, and Kelly noted Jensen has admitted to being a daily marijuana user. The judge did not order him to seek employment, preferring instead that he remain at home.
Although Kelly is granting Jensen release, he cautioned both prosecutors and defense attorneys not to interpret his ruling as an indication of where he stands on the charges.
"Nothing I say should be understood to say that I don’t think Mr. Jensen’s conduct that day was very serious, that I don’t think what happened on Jan. 6 was very serious. And that shouldn't give anyone a hint of what sentence I might think appropriate (should Jensen be convicted)," Kelly said. "I’ve said many times, I do consider what happened that day to be the equivalent of trying to steal one of the crown jewels of our country, the peaceful transfer of power."
More: Jan. 6 attack suspect Doug Jensen's attorney says he 'became a victim of numerous conspiracy theories'
Jensen was sworn in at the hearing but did not testify. Attorneys said his wife intends to pick him up Wednesday from the Washington, D.C., jail where he is being held and bring him directly back to Iowa.
Court records do not show a trial date scheduled for Jensen, although he has a status hearing set for July 27. Attorneys had previously told the judge they were in plea negotiations and that the question of pretrial release had been a sticking point.
Jensen is among more than 500 defendants, including at least six Iowans, facing charges in the Jan. 6 attack. In a recent memorandum filed in another case, prosecutors wrote that "the investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Breach will be the largest in American history," both in number of defendants and volume of evidence. More charges are expected, with investigations still open at 55 of the FBI's 56 field offices nationwide.
William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at [email protected], 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.