An Olathe, Kansas, man who federal prosecutors allege was the leader of a cell of Kansas City-area Proud boys that breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 will remain in federal custody, a judge ruled Friday.
William “Billy” Chrestman will be detained until Wednesday, when U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge James O’Hara will hear arguments on whether to release him pending the outcome of the case.
Two others charged along with Chrestman on Thursday, Louis Enrique Colon of Blue Springs and Christopher Kuehne of Olathe, have been released on their own recognizance.
Prosecutors argued in a court filing that Chrestman was a flight risk and a danger to society if released.
“Releasing Defendant Chrestman to rejoin their fold and plan their next attack poses a potentially catastrophic risk of danger to the community,” it said.
“Defendant Chrestman, a member of a right-wing militia, knowingly and willfully participated in a riot that was designed to prevent the United States Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election,” the filing said. “Not only did Defendant Chrestman participate in the riot, he assumed a leadership role by shouting ‘Whose house is this?’ and encouraging the crowd to ‘Take it!’”
In the filing, prosecutors said there was no reason to believe that Chrestman or any of his Proud Boy associates were “any less interested in fomenting rebellion than they were on January 5.”
If nothing else, they said, the events of Jan. 6 “have exposed the size and determination of right-wing fringe groups in the United States, and their willingness to place themselves and others in danger to further their political ideology.”
Prosecutors said words alone can’t communicate the true nature of the crimes carried out on Jan. 6.
“It is an event that cannot be measured in the number dead, injured, or wounded, but rather in the destabilizing effect that it has had on this country,” the filing said. “This destabilizing effect is precisely what Defendant Chrestman envisioned when he decided to travel to the Capitol, helped lead others into the U.S. Capitol, and participated in the Proud Boys’ participation in the riot at the Capitol building.”
The three men were arrested Thursday on charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The men, along with siblings Felicia and Cory Konold of Tucson, Arizona, are accused of conspiring to “corruptly obstruct, influence or impede an official proceeding before Congress” and “to obstruct, impede or interfere with a law enforcement officer during the commission of a civil disorder.”
Chrestman, 47, also is charged with threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and using and carrying a dangerous weapon during the commission of the offense. He could be seen on numerous videos alongside other Proud Boys during the insurrection, dressed in tactical gear, leading chants and wielding an ax handle inside the Capitol.
The Kansas City Star, which published a story last week about Chrestman’s involvement in the riot, spoke to him on the phone three times since Jan. 24. He repeatedly responded, “I’ve got no comment at this time” when asked about the Capitol invasion and declined to say whether he was involved with the Proud Boys.
According to prosecutors’ motion to keep Chrestman in custody, federal law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Chrestman’s home on Feb. 11. Among the items found, it said, was Chrestman’s cellphone.
“Of note, that phone was found in the dresser drawer of Defendant Chrestman’s young child,” the motion said.
Authorities did not find any of the camouflage clothing or tactical gear similar to what Chrestman wore during the Capitol riot, the motion said. They also did not find any firearms, even though Chrestman had displayed a rifle on social media posts several times that gave the impression it had a significant meaning to him.
The items seized from Chrestman’s home do not further corroborate the commission of the crimes he’s accused of committing, the motion said, “but the absence of any camouflage clothing or tactical gear worn on January 6, 2021, suggest he took specific acts to remove evidence linking him to the crimes committed.”
Other “concerning behavior,” prosecutors said in the motion, was that Chrestman removed the street address numbers from his home after returning from Washington, D.C.
Chrestman and Kuehne had their initial court appearances on Friday morning via Zoom.
Kuehne told O’Hara that he is being treated at the Department of Veterans Affairs for PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. When asked about his formal education, he said he had a master’s degree.
Kuehne’s conditions of release require that he be in home detention, remove all weapons from the home and be subject to electronic monitoring. His next hearing is set for Feb. 26 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia via Zoom.
O’Hara told Kuehne, 47, that he would be “very closely monitored” and warned him that if he didn’t appear for his next hearing, U.S. Marshals would arrest him. When he asked Kuehne if that was clear, Kuehne replied: “Crystal clear.”
Kuehne’s father, Charles Kuehne, said his son was a 22-year Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and retired four or five years ago as a captain. He moved to Olathe to take a railroad management job but was laid off in May 2020.
“That added a lot of stress to his life,” the elder Kuehne told The Associated Press.
He said he and his son never talked about politics before they and his mother had a disagreement in May 2020 about a family matter. They have not spoken since that disagreement, and Kuehne said he was shocked to hear of his son’s arrest from an Associated Press reporter, adding, “I’m in tears right now.”
“I can’t believe he went to DC,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Kuehne’s attorney, Robin Fowler, said in a statement Friday that Kuehne was “a decorated Marine who served his nation for over 20 years and was awarded a Purple Heart, among other honors, for his service in Iraq and elsewhere.”
“He looks forward to addressing the allegations against him at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, which he expects will be in federal court in Washington, D.C.”
Chrestman, an Army veteran who is being represented by a public defender, told the judge that he had a high school diploma, had attended “some college” and completed trade school.
He said he had been employed as a sheet metal worker but had not worked since March or April. When O’Hara asked him if he had any money in his bank account, Chrestman said it was under $2,000, then added that he had about $10,500 in a safe at his home.
Colon was released after his initial court appearance on Thursday. His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 17 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Colon’s attorney, J.R. Hobbs, told The Star on Friday that neither Colon nor his family would be commenting at this time.
Colon, 44, was hired by the Blue Springs Police Department in November-December of 2003 and resigned in 2006, Chief Bob Muenz told The Star.
“He was employed here 2 ½ years over 12 years ago,” Muenz said. “He was listed as a voluntary resignation. … People that might still know him here are surprised. I don’t know that I’ve ever met him.”
In February 2004, Colon wrote on the Officer Down Memorial Page for two Detroit Police officers who were killed.
“The 123rd Entrant Officer Class from the Kansas City Regional Academy extends its condolences to the family and co-workers,” he wrote. “Our instructors always tell us that at any time, in any stop we make in the future things can go terribly wrong. I am sadened (sic) to be reminded of this truth.”
He signed the message, Entrant Officer Enrique Colon, Blue Springs Police Department.
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