A D.C. judge on Monday ordered a conservative Internet talk show host held without bond after he was seen in a video loading a shotgun in the District's Freedom Plaza, a demonstration the defense called an example of political speech but one that the judge said made the host "a very dangerous man."
Adam Kokesh, 31, was ordered to remain behind bars at least until a status hearing next month. Under the District's strict gun control statutes, he faces a maximum sentence of five years behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000 on a felony charge related to carrying a pistol outside a home or place of business. Until his Monday appearance in the District, Mr. Kokesh had been in custody of Fairfax County police on a misdemeanor drug possession charge.
"Who in this day and age brings a shotgun in the District of Columbia, racks it, makes a video of it, and is caught at his house with an arsenal of weapons?" Judge Frederick Sullivan said. "It's one thing to be a political activist. It's another to run around the District of Columbia with a shotgun."
Defense attorney Peter Cooper argued that his client did not intend to threaten anyone.
"This is an act of political speech, not a crime being committed," Mr. Cooper said.
Mr. Kokesh's appearance in the D.C. courthouse was largely spent listening to his attorney and Mr. Sullivan argue the cross-examination of a detective for the U.S. Park Police, the sole witness called to testify during Monday's hearing.
Detective Robert Freeman said he had viewed the roughly 23-second YouTube video of Mr. Kokesh loading a shotgun in a D.C. park nearly two dozen times.
On July 4, a video was published on YouTube in which Mr. Kokesh is shown loading four shells into a shotgun and pumping a shell into the chamber. Behind him stretches Pennsylvania Avenue heading east to the U.S. Capitol with traffic moving. The buildings and stone courtyard identify the location as Freedom Plaza — blocks from the White House and the D.C. city government's John A. Wilson Building.
As he loads the shotgun, Mr. Kokesh recites the closing lines of his "Final American Revolution Pledge of Resistance," which was posted on his website earlier this month.
"We will not be silent. We will not obey. We will not allow our government to destroy our humanity. We are the final American revolution," he says, before closing with, "See you next Independence Day."
During his cross-examination, Mr. Cooper attempted to question the authenticity of the video, whether Mr. Freeman had seen Mr. Kokesh that day in Freedom Plaza, and whether he had ever heard of a "green screen," an audiovisual tool used for creating a false background such as the kind used during a weather report on television.
Court documents state that on July 8, Mr. Kokesh appeared on an online radio show and told the host: "It was a real shotgun, it was loaded, and it was racked and had a round in the chamber in Freedom Plaza, in Washington, D.C."
Mr. Cooper declined to comment on his line of questioning but said "all those issues will come out in cold light of day." He also declined to comment on the numerous rebukes from the judge, who on several occasions threatened to end the preliminary hearing if it became "a circus" because of Mr. Cooper's questioning.
The hearing did have some unusual aspects. Half of the courtroom's lights were not functioning, and one man tried to videotape the proceedings with his cellphone.
The would-be taper was Darrell Young, operating manager for Mr. Kokesh's talk show "Adam vs. The Man." Mr. Young said U.S. marshals took his phone and deleted the hearing footage before returning it to him.
Mr. Kokesh was also chastised by the judge for speaking out of turn when he informed Mr. Sullivan that it was NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory who was almost prosecuted for displaying a high-capacity ammunition round on his Sunday morning show.
Court documents state that on July 9, after securing a warrant for Mr. Kokesh's home in the 1500 block of Snowflake Court, U.S. Park Police officers searched the house while Mr. Kokesh was present and found a Maverick Arms 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, four red 12-gauge shotgun shells, and marijuana and suspected hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Officers also found ammunition and seven other guns in the home, some of which were locked in a gun safe. The shotgun was found in the headboard of Mr. Kokesh's bed after he told officers to check that location.
In early May, Mr. Kokesh called for armed gun rights activists to march July 4 from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and proceed across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into the District — where it is illegal to carry guns on the street.
D.C. police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said her officers would have met Mr. Kokesh and his protesters at the D.C. line. "If you're coming here to break the law, then we're going to take action," she said.
The march was called off a few weeks later.
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