A man charged over the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 has died while awaiting trial. John Steven Anderson, 61, died Tuesday at Baptist Hospital South in Jacksonville, Florida, according to an obituary published by St. John's Family Funeral Home.
Anderson's attorney, high-profile defense lawyer Marina Medvin, confirmed his death to WUSA9, saying in an email that the deceased was a "good-hearted man."
The veteran of the Marine Corps and Florida Army National Guard's 3/20th Special Forces Group was arrested in February and indicted a month later on eight counts in connection with the Capitol riot, WUSA9 reported.
Anderson was granted pretrial release in March and ordered to stay away from the District of Columbia except for business related to the Jan. 6 case.
The charges against Anderson included civil disorder, assaulting police, theft of government property, and entering a restricted building or grounds. Medvin released a letter Friday explaining the circumstances surrounding the charges.
"It is with a heavy heart that I write these words. My client, John Anderson, a kind man I have gotten to know and care about over this past year, has passed away," prefaces the Medvin Law Firm press release obtained by The Post Millennial.
Medvin says that she and Anderson have spent the last year of his life defending him against "wrongful accusations brought by the federal government."
"We have not been at liberty to publicly discuss the case and his defense before our trial date, per court rules," Medvin explains in the statement. "John's hope and agony over this past year have been trying to clear his name. This hope lives on past his untimely demise. It remains my hope and the hope of his family."
Medvin says that now that the government will be moving to dismiss the case against Anderson, she is finally at liberty to tell his story.
"John Anderson was a proud American who loved his country," Mevin states. Anderson was a conservative who attended various Trump events and rallies over the past few years—none of which have ever gotten out of hand, Anderson told Medvin. "John didn't expect the January 6 event to be much different, though he felt the fundamental importance of the January 6 protest and wanted to be
present to support his beloved country," Medvin goes on.
Anderson was at the Capitol with his cell phone out and hearing assistive
devices in, Medvin details, noting that the defendant came to Washington to support President Donald Trump and fair elections.
He found himself toward the front of the crowd, near one of the tunnels in front of the Capitol. Anderson had his phone out, recording what he perceived as a historic protest, Medvin continues. However, when the crowd turned unruly, Anderson couldn't leave with the entire protest advancing behind him, Medvin says. "There was nowhere to move freely but forwards with the crowd."
As the crowd moved closer to the Capitol tunnel entrance, Anderson followed along. Some younger male members of the crowd grew more agitated, more aggressive, and started attacking the officer line guarding the Capitol. The group began pushing the Trump protestors forwards, barking orders at the peaceful Trump supporters, "like military commanders," Anderson described to Medvin.
A man aimed chemical spray towards the officers. In between the cops and the assailant stood Anderson, who had a heart condition, allergies, and
asthma. The spray hit Anderson directly in the face, Medvin states.
The officers responded, further filling the tunnel with chemical spray gasses.
With nowhere to escape a tunnel abundant with chemical spray, Anderson went from coughing to collapsing in just minutes, Medvin narrates.
The statement then goes along to talk about how Anderson was incapacitated by the return spray from the officers and had to ask for assistance from them.
Realizing that this was a medical emergency, the officers pulled Anderson into the Capitol and administered medical aid. "They saved my life," Anderson said. He was eternally grateful to the officers who helped him, Medvin states.
In charging documents filed in DC District Court, the Justice Department argues bodyworn camera footage shows Anderson wielding a police riot shield at the front of a line of rioters attempting to push through a line of law enforcement in the Capitol tunnel. During the melee in the tunnel, Anderson was exposed to chemical irritants and began suffering respiratory distress. Surveillance footage shows officers assisting Anderson in moving through the police line to receive aid.
A supervisor instructed one of the officers to cite John for "unlawful entry," a local misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of six months, Medvin says. Anderson was released with the citation after receiving medical care.
"Of note, John Anderson never entered the Capitol building on his own accord. Mr. Anderson was brought into the building by the MPD officers who were rendering medical aid to him," Medvin reiterates.
Five weeks later, the DOJ decided to take over the case and charge Anderson under federal law as part of the Jan. 6 investigation. "They arrested John by hunting him down during his 5 AM outdoor exercise routine that he did every morning with his wife, throwing him down on the pavement," Medvin says of the arrest. "(This was after I offered simple self-surrender to feds, offering to turn him in civilly to save the government resources and risk. My request was declined."
All of a suden, Anderson was accused of felonious conduct: stealing two police shields, "assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers," and "civil disorder," in addition to the typical four misdemeanor charges the federal government has levied against all of the Jan. 6 defendants.
"We were shocked by the new allegations," Medvin says. Anderson swore that he did none of the accusations. "I never hurt anybody, Marina," he told Medvin. "I was there for a protest. Why would they say I did these things if they know that isn't true? Ask them to check their cameras. I didn't do any of this."
Anderson insisted he was there for the protest, recording the events. "I didn’t attack any officers. I didn't hurt anyone. Someone sprayed me," Anderson said. "I couldn’t breathe, and I begged the officers for help. And I thank God every day that they helped me. They saved my life."
"How could he have assaulted officers if he was receiving aid from them and could barely breathe or walk without their assistance? If the government’s theory is interfering with law enforcement, then how could a request for medical aid be considered felonious?" Medvin questions in the press release.
"How could such large-sized property as police shields be stolen when John Anderson was in law enforcement custody and then released — where would he hide them? Why would MPD officers release him on a citation without such extreme conduct ever being mentioned if it indeed happened? After all, he was surrounded by officers the entire time he was in the Capitol," she presses.
Federal prosecutors assured Medvin that authorities had video evidence that would reveal the felonious conduce, advising that footage will show Anderson making his way to the front of the police line "where he had to be chemically sprayed by police after being disorderly and taking a shield, and that he required medical aid only after this negative interaction with law enforcement."
"We know now that none of that is accurate. The videos that were provided by the
government to the defense, from which we obtained the screen-shots shown supra, clear John's name," Medvin fires back.
Medvin states that Anderson was truthful: "John did not approach the police line to be disorderly or combative but to seek police assistance. John Anderson never hurt or touched a single police officer. The video evidence proves this."
CCTV video shows that after Anderson was sprayed in the face, the crowd was passing a shield over his head and he pushed it past his head, Medvin says. As for the second shield, Anderson held a shield, which was also being passed around the tunnel, and clung to it as he was protecting his face from the noxious gasses that were being sprayed into the tunnel—after peeling himself off the floor following his initial collapse from the gassing, Medvin states. "He never charged anyone with a shield. He clung to the shield as he was squinting his eye shut; that's what the video shows. These were the bases of the two police shield 'theft' accusations."
Medvin asked the government typical theft case defense questions, such as whom the shields belonged to. "I don't know which department owned the shields," the government counsel responded. Medvin said the defense investigation revealed it was owned by the Metropolitan Police Department, not federal police.
The revelation is relevant because Anderson was accused of stealing property belonging to the federal government, not the local DC government.
"John didn't even remember these shields," Medvin says. "He was so panicked about not being able to breathe that he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing to stop the spray from coming at his face."
Medvin says Anderson didn't remember touching the first shield that was passed over his head after he was initially sprayed by the crowd member. "All he remembered was being sprayed, struggling to breathe, and seeking help."
"The government knew that John was vehemently denying the accusations. They had John’s side of the story. And they had the video evidence. They watched the same videos that we watched. But they maintained their accusations were accurate," Medvin said. The feds wanted Anderson to plead guilty to a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison as a plea offer. Medvin and Anderson were working on turning down the offer, which the two felt "was a slap in the face."
"I will not say that I did something I didn't do," was Anderson's position. "We believed that the government was continuing to ignore the complete picture of what happened," Medvin adds. "We believed that the government continued relying on their misleading Statement of Facts."
Medvin says Anderson wanted her to "show America that he was innocent."
"Unfortunately, he didn't get his chance to see it through. John wanted to tell the world that he was a good, conservative man. That he respected police and would never hurt an officer. John wanted America to know that he was there for a protest and that he didn't commit any violent act," Medvin states.
Medvin concludes in the press release: "May John Steven Anderson rest in peace and tranquility. May his family find comfort and finality in knowing that John was genuinely innocent of the serious charges of which he was accused before his death. May America know that John Anderson died a wrongfully accused man who maintained his innocence to his last day."
"John didn't deserve what he had to endure before his death," Medvin tweeted Saturday morning. Medvin urged supporters to make a donation to Anderson's parish in his memory, First Conservative Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Anderson owned various small businesses throughout his life, including a
mechanic shop and a foam spray insulation service. He also engaged with his community and local church, Medvin recounts.