Suspended North Cornwall Township police officer Joseph Fischer has been released from house arrest on the federal criminal charges filed against him in connection with the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
The D.C. federal prosecutor’s office has also notified Fischer’s public defender of a large amount of evidence against Fischer and others charged in the incident that could be disclosed in the trial.
Fischer had originally been released from jail pending trial, but placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring. According to PennLive, a federal magistrate judge in D.C. lifted the house arrest and electronic monitoring conditions after finding that he is not a danger to the public.
On March 11, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Loeb notified Fischer’s Federal Public Defender, Eugene Ohm, that the government will provide the defense with a large amount of evidence that could be used at trial. The law requires prosecutors in all criminal cases to voluntarily disclose all evidence that is favorable to a criminal defendant, including evidence that could point toward innocence, question the credibility of a witness for the prosecution, or reduce a defendant’s sentence if convicted.
In a March 11 letter to Ohm, Loeb stated that “[d]ue to the extraordinary nature of the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack, the government anticipates that a large volume of materials may contain information relevant to this prosecution. These materials may include, but are not limited to, surveillance video, statements of similarly situated defendants, forensic searches of electronic devices and social media accounts of similarly situated defendants, and citizen tips.”
“Statements of similarly situated defendants” suggests that the government may give favorable plea deals to some defendants in return for their promise to testify against other defendants who are suspected of playing a bigger roll in the attack. Federal prosecutors have recently told the court that they might do so.
Loeb’s letter to Fischer’s attorney also suggested that the government may ask the D.C. federal district court to issue “protective orders” forbidding or limiting public disclosure of some evidence by the defense or prosecution. Protective orders are issued when the disclosure of certain evidence could prejudice the defendant or other defendants, the prosecution, public safety, or national security.
Fischer, who has been on the North Cornwall police force since 2002, has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the charges against him.
Fischer’s next court appearance, via video, is scheduled for March 15 in the District of Columbia, before a United States Magistrate Judge. It is expected that scheduling and procedural matters will be discussed.
The township placed its police chief, John Leahy, on administrative leave shortly after Fischer’s charges were announced. Leahy later tendered his resignation, which was accepted by the Board of Supervisors on March 2.
The township has denied any knowledge of Fischer’s alleged activity in Washington on Jan. 6. It has not commented on why Leahy was placed on leave or why his resignation was accepted.
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