The former Virginia cop accused of secretly buying over 30 firearms after storming the Capitol is insisting his secret arsenal did not violate his pre-trial conditions—because he did not actually have the antique guns he ordered online in his possession.
Thomas Robertson, a former Rocky Mount Police sergeant, is facing several charges after prosecutors allege he stormed the Capitol with a fellow officer and made an “obscene statement in front of a statue of John Stark,” before later boasting he was “fucking proud” of his actions on Facebook. After his Jan. 13 arrest, Robertson was released pending trial on several conditions, including that he was forbidden from owning any guns or destructive devices.
But in a damning motion requesting Robertson’s bond be revoked, prosecutors state the Army veteran and trained sniper purchased at least 34 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, marking the second time he violated his pretrial conditions in six months. Seemingly knowing his secret arsenal was prohibited, the motion states he even tried to hide some of his purchases by labeling them on Venmo as “wedding photos.”
The former cop’s lawyers, however, offered a simple explanation for their client’s alleged violations: the “antique gun lover” supposedly does not have any of the purchased firearms in his possession, they said, and the government should have been clearer about their rules.
“Ordering guns does not equate to possession,” defense attorney Mark Rollins said in a Sunday response to prosecutors, noting that since his client did not “ship or transport these items” the dispute could simply be resolved with updated pretrial language that states he is not allowed to order firearms online.
“Mr. Robertson was an antique gun lover, served his Country honorably, and the guns he allegedly purchased but did not possess were antique guns from the World War II era,” Rollins added in the motion.
Prosecutors, however, offered a detailed account of Roberston’s violations since he and his colleague, Jacob Fracker, stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. After the siege, Roberston took to Facebook to defend his actions, stating that a photo of him and Fracker inside the Capitol shows “2 men willing to actually put skin in the game and stand up for their rights.” In another post, he said he would do whatever it took to disrupt then-President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and “fight the cocksuckers who stole our country.”
After Robertson’s arrest, Judge G. Michael Harvey ordered him to relocate all of his firearms by Jan. 15 in accordance with the conditions of his release. The motion states that just four days after that deadline, investigators executed a search warrant at Roberston’s Ferrum, Virginia home—where they found at least eight guns. Inside his shed, Roberston also had “large amounts of ammunition.”
Despite the violation, Harvey granted Roberston a second chance with strict instructions he could not “possess a firearm, destructive device, or other dangerous weapons,” the motion states. In February, however, the FBI received information that Roberston had again violated his conditions—prompting investigators to get a search warrant for his email account.
The motion states that Roberston purchased several firearms over his email, including one that he paid for via Venmo under the description “Wedding Photos.” On June 29, the FBI raided Roberston’s home for a second time, where they found “an arsenal of 34 firearms... a loaded M4 rifle, ammunition, and a partially assembled pipe bomb.” They also found a box labeled “Booby Trap” in an outhouse that contained “a metal pipe with two ends caps, with a fuse inserted into a hole that had been drilled into the device; epoxy had been used around the sides of the fuse to secure it,” the motion states.
In the defense response motion, Rollins said that prosecutors failed to note that the box—which did not contain explosive power—was also labeled with the words “ALERRT kit, props, and booby trap sims” and was simply a teaching aid.
This “partially assembled pipe found inside the box is not a destructive device as this device is used to teach students (Safety) in law enforcement as part of the ALERRT class,” Rollins wrote. “Mr. Robertson was a level II instructor for ALERRT. This pipe is not active as it is a prop for training.”
Rollins also noted that investigators did not find any of the guns that Roberston had purchased. The only firearm found at his client’s house was one that belonged to Roberston’s son, who had been “honorably discharged from the U.S. Army” two days prior and was a licensed gun owner. Prosecutors state that Roberston, however, had admitted to buying a slew of guns that had been shipped to a local licensed dealer—and he just had not picked them up yet.
“Robertson’s extensive and flagrant violations of the terms of his release order, including numerous violations of the federal firearms laws, strongly support revocation of his pretrial release in this case. This conduct, coupled with his calls for future violence, shows that no condition or combination of conditions can adequately protect the public from the defendant, and warrants immediate action by the court through the issuance of an arrest warrant,” prosecutors argued.
A judge is set to rule on Roberston’s pre-trial fate on Aug. 3.