Judge rejects detention request for Kansas Proud Boys leader

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A federal magistrate judge rejected on Friday the government’s request to keep the alleged leader of the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys in custody pending his trial for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Attorneys for William Chrestman, a 47-year-old Army veteran and union sheet metal worker from Olathe, Kansas, had blamed former President Donald Trump for the riot, telling a federal magistrate judge that the five weeks since then “have broken the fever dream.”

“The court finds no need to get dragged into the ongoing public debate about whether President Trump can or should be held accountable, criminally or civilly (or perhaps both), for inciting the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. That’s for other courts to decide … later,” U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara wrote.

In a 17-page decision, O’Hara ruled Chrestman could be released on a $10,000 bond to home detention with electronic monitoring. Prosecutors immediately filed a motion seeking to have the order stayed while they appeal the decision to the District Court.

He is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and other federal charges stemming from the melee.

The judge also found that the record “discloses not just a strong, but an overwhelming case on the merits against the defendant. This court believes his ultimate conviction is highly probable, with a significant prison sentence to follow.”

Prosecutors sought to keep Chrestman in custody, arguing that he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. Defense attorneys countered that he won’t flee and argued that he poses no danger since he and the world around him have changed much since that day.

In allowing his release, the judge noted Chrestman’s family ties to the area and his lack of significant criminal history.

While in the abstract, the threat of continued riotous conduct if released obviously presents an extremely serious danger to the community, the government has not shown that Chrestman has engaged in any criminal conduct either individually or with the Proud boys before or after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the judge said.