PITTSBURGH — The “pink hat lady” doesn’t think she should have to be on electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet pending trial on charges of breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in support of former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims.
But federal prosecutors say Rachel Powell smashed her way into the Capitol, directed other rioters on where to go, stood by doing nothing while a fellow rioter beat up a cop and talked in support of civil war and “bloodshed.”
They say she’s dangerous and should remain under court supervision until her case is resolved.
Powell, a Mercer County mother of eight, is charged with numerous felonies in connection with using a heavy pipe to smash a window, climb inside the Capitol and use a bullhorn to direct other pro-Trump rioters about how best to penetrate the building.
She’s seen in videos wearing a distinctive pink hat and carrying a bullhorn, hence the media’s designation of her as either the “pink hat lady” or “bullhorn lady.”
Either way, prosecutors say she is a violent criminal.
She has been free on home detention with an ankle bracelet and a curfew, pending federal trial in the District of Columbia.
But she says those conditions are now burdensome and wants a judge to lift them.
Powell and her New York lawyer, Nicholas Smith, say the restrictions “impose serious impediments to Powell’s family and work obligations and are not necessary to ensure her appearance in this proceeding.”
She said she was forced to sell her house to raise money for her defense. To avoid losing her job, she rented a place on her employer’s property. But it’s too small for her teenage sons. So they live alone in another building nearby, where she can’t monitor them.
Powell said the problem is that she can’t enter her sons’ building after 6 p.m. because the equipment supporting her GPS can’t be installed there. Her sons, then, are alone all night.
She said her curfew is also making it hard to attend business meetings and calls with clients, and her company has suffered losses as a result. The company isn’t identified.
She and the lawyer want the judge to remove the ankle bracelet and lift the curfew, denying a government argument that she’s a flight risk.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin said the judge should reject the request because Powell has “acted violently and called for violence” before and during the insurrection.
Before the riot, Powell showed an “inclination” toward violence, Rochlin said.
In October 2020, she posted a comment on Facebook in which she said “the only way this is probably capable of being fixed is bloodshed because I’m not so sure our government can be fixed the political way anymore either.”
The following month, Rochlin said, Powell described her surveillance of a public official’s house and asked others online how best to confirm the official’s address. She also posted pictures of herself shooting guns at a firing range.
Rochlin then recounted Powell’s actions on Jan. 6, including “indifferently” watching another rioter attack a police officer right in front of her and then using an ice-ax and a pipe to smash a window while giving orders to others about the layout of the building.
A day after the insurrection, Powell said on Facebook that the “legal route” isn’t working and that “it’s time to rise,” a reference to Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen.
Rochlin also recounted how Powell left her children unattended at home to go to Washington that day and later gave an interview to the New Yorker while the FBI was looking for her.
A search of her home turned up smashed cell phones, “go-bags,” gun paraphernalia, ammo, Shuriken throwing stars and other weapons.
As for Powell’s current living conditions, Rochlin said Powell had sought and obtained approval from the pretrial services office for her current address “despite its alleged lack of space for all of her children.” She also noted that Powell doesn’t have full custody of the children; their primary residence is with their father. The children are only near Powell when they come to visit.
“Thus, the circumstances she complains of are intermittent and temporary,” Rochlin said.
The prosecutor said that a judge shouldn’t relax someone’s supervisory conditions just because they’re inconvenient for a defendant.
Rochlin also made note of the fact that Powell has complained about how her ankle bracelet is too heavy, even though she is a certified fitness instructor.
Rochlin said the judge “should deny the motion to modify release conditions the defendant explicitly understood and accepted in order to secure release.”
Powell is among some two dozen people from Western Pennsylvania charged in the Capitol insurrection.
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