According to a D.C. judge, Iowan Doug Jensen’s behavior during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection — videos and photos of which went viral in the wake of the chaos — was neither the worst nor the most benign that day.
“Mr. Jensen’s conduct falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of offenses that Jan. 6 defendants are charged with,” Judge Timothy Kelly of the Federal District Court for Washington D.C. said from the bench on Tuesday, granting Jensen’s request to be released from jail as he awaits trial. Jensen will return to Des Moines for “home incarceration,” as Kelly described it, in the custody of his wife.
The 41-year-old Jensen, formerly employed by Forrest & Associate Masonry in Des Moines, faces seven felony charges, including disorderly conduct; assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers; and two counts of entering a restricted building carrying a deadly weapon. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts, and had been held in jail in D.C. without bond since his arrest on Jan. 9.
Though Jensen was allegedly confrontational with police and had a knife in his pocket that day, Judge Kelly said it was clear Jensen hadn’t masterminded a coup at the Capitol. In fact, video Jensen took of himself on Jan. 6, which was entered into evidence and released publicly on Tuesday, shows the Trump supporter repeatedly referring to the Capitol Building as the White House.
QAnon believer and Jan. 6 defendant Douglas Jensen: “This is me, touching the fucking White House.”
NARRATOR: He was not, in fact, touching the fucking White House.
One of the latest Jan. 6 videos released by the feds this evening: pic.twitter.com/VROfutyKJ4
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) July 13, 2021
“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.
Despite the bumbling nature of Jensen’s behavior in comparison to other indicted insurrectionists — some of whom (like Paul Hodgkins, who is scheduled for sentencing July 19) are accused of meticulously planning the invasion, carrying firearms into the Capitol and/or violently assaulting law enforcement — Kelly said he still considers Jensen’s conduct to be “very serious.”
A video taken during the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6 and shared by Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post appears to show Jensen emerging from the crowd and shouting at Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman before disregarding the officer’s orders and continuing forward. Goodman pushes Jensen before picking a baton off of the ground and darting up a flight of stairs — successfully diverting Jensen and the rioters following Jensen from continuing down the hallway towards the Senate Chamber and the still-escaping Congressmembers.
At the top of the stairs, Goodman tells Jensen “back up,” and pushes him again when Jensen fails to follow the order. Goodman calmly walks to a room called the Ohio Clock Corridor, where he and fellow law enforcement contain Jensen and the other trespassers. It is in this room that the infamous Associated Press photo of Jensen facing down officers, wearing a black beanie and T-shirt emblazoned with a star-spangled Q, his arms spread wide, was taken.
Here’s the scary moment when protesters initially got into the building from the first floor and made their way outside Senate chamber. pic.twitter.com/CfVIBsgywK
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021
According to the criminal complaint in Jensen’s case, Jensen told Des Moines Police and FBI agents “that he intentionally positioned himself to be among the first people inside the United States Capitol because he was wearing his ‘Q’ t-shirt and he wanted to have his t-shirt seen on video so that ‘Q’ could ‘get the credit.'”
While Jensen sung praises for the vast rightwing conspiracy theory QAnon following his arrest, the motion for release penned by his attorney, Christopher Davis, framed Jensen as a “victim” of QAnon’s online influencers, many of whom encouraged followers to attend the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally in Washington D.C. in the misguided belief that nefarious “deep state” forces rigged the 2020 election, and that Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress had both the ability and the duty to overturn Joe Biden’s victory and keep Donald Trump in the White House. This was a narrative pushed by QAnon’s mysterious message-board prophet “Q,” as well as Trump himself.
In the petition challenging Jensen’s pretrial detention, Davis said his client was fully convinced of the QAnon narrative at the time of the insurrection, and guided his actions.
“He literally asked the FBI agents during his interview [on Jan. 9] whether the arrests had taken place yet,” Davis wrote. “… His comments to law enforcement in the Capitol were literally limited to asking them why they were not arresting the corrupt politicians.”
Davis frames Jensen as an “intelligent man” who merely “got taken.”
For reasons he does not even understand today, [Jensen] became a “true believer” and was convinced he doing a noble service by becoming a digital soldier for “Q.” Maybe it was mid-life crisis, the pandemic, or perhaps the message just seemed to elevate him from his ordinary life to an exalted status with an honorable goal. In any event, he fell victim to this barrage of internet sourced info and came to the Capitol, at the direction of the President of the United States, to demonstrate that he was a “true patriot.” Six months later, languishing in a DC Jail cell, locked down most of the time, he feels deceived, recognizing that he bought into a pack of lies.
“Jensen, as silly as it sounds, was there to observe.”
Davis concludes, “He is a non-violent man who now recognizes what happened to him. Perhaps a little late, but better late than never.”
According to reporter Scott MacFarlane, who attended the June 21 hearing on Jensen’s detention, Davis told the judge his client “deserves credit for not pushing past the solitary Capitol Police Officer (Eugene Goodman) on Jan 6.”
The government has a slightly different description of Jensen’s behavior than Davis, one that describes Jensen less as a restrained observer deluded by the Big Lie, but an aggressive rioter who represented a potent threat to Goodman and other officers. For example, Jensen said something to Goodman after the officer picked up the baton; according to the defense, Jensen said, “I will take it for my country.” But the government account said the statement was, “I’ll take it, I’ll take it.”
“Even if Jensen intended his statement to be non-threatening, to a lone law enforcement officer being chased by dozens of angry rioters — the same rioters who, moments prior, used weapons to break through reinforced glass windows of the United States Capitol — the words ‘I’ll take it’ connote a threat to inflict injury,” according to a motion filed by the prosecution.
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) June 21, 2021
Jensen’s criminal history was also cited as evidence of his capacity for malfeasance. In 2015, Jensen pleaded guilty to domestic assault and disorderly conduct in Minnesota, and was sentenced to three days in jail. In 2006, he was charged with fifth-degree misdemeanor theft in Polk County and pleaded guilty.
But Judge Kelly concluded that what he considers to be Jensen’s middle-of-the-road conduct means Jensen does not represent a threat to the public as he awaits trial.
“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,” Kelly said Tuesday in his decision.
I'm listening in to the pretrial detention review hearing for Capitol Riot suspect Doug Jensen of Des Moines. The judge says that there's a "spectrum" of conduct, and that "his conduct is somewhere in between" open assault and passive observer.
— William Morris (@DMRMorris) June 24, 2021
Conditions of Jensen’s pretrial release and home confinement include avoiding contact with others involved in the events of Jan. 6, not possessing a firearm, refraining from alcohol use, staying away from D.C. except when mandated by the court and avoiding internet-capable devices.
The decision to release Jensen ahead of his disposition and trial has been met with criticism on social media. Jensen’s confusing of the U.S. Capitol Building, the center of the legislative branch, with the White House, the executive branch, led the Huffington Post to conclude “Doug Jensen’s failure to comprehend basic civics helped him secure pretrial release.”
The issue of Jensen’s pretrial detention had been holding up a potential plea deal, according to prosecutors. The Justice Department is reportedly in plea talks with hundreds of suspects arrested on insurrection-related charges. Jessica and Joshua Bustle of Virginia were the first to cut a deal with prosecutors on June 14, pleading guilty to one count of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing” inside the Capitol, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
Like other highly visible insurrectionists, Jensen was the subject of far-right conspiracy theories seeking to blame anyone but Trump and his supporters for the riot that resulted in five deaths and undermined the American ideal of peaceful transfer of power.
In the days and weeks following Jan. 6, Jensen was identified as a Minnesota antifa member in right-wing internet groups. Though the men do share a resemblance, the claim is easily disproven with a Google search. Still, these posts continue to float around social media and message boards.
Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his “quick, decisive, and heroic actions” on Jan. 6. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said Goodman “single-handedly prevented untold bloodshed” by leading the crowd — headed by Doug Jensen — away from the Senate Chamber.
According the U.S. Justice Department, “The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Breach will be the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence.”