The attorney for Capitol protester Christopher Worrell has filed an emergency motion with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to seek the release of his client, who has cancer, after he contracted COVID-19 in the jail where he is being detained.
Worrell has been held for over a month after firing pepper spray during the chaos on January 6, which he says was aimed at people who he believed to be Antifa that were targeting police.
Worrell has been imprisoned and denied bail since March 12 — and has been shipped around from Florida, to Oklahoma, to Virginia, and now finally DC. He has been subjected to horrific conditions including a lack of water for sometimes up to seven hours and contracted COVID on top of his non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer.
The proud patriotic American is now severely at risk of dying from COVID or metastasizing cancer advancing while being denied bail.
Worrell was raided after travelling to DC with his girlfriend on January 6 to hear then-President Donald Trump speak and exercise their right to protest the 2020 presidential election.
Due to the violence from the left that has been inflicted upon Trump supporters in public since 2016, Worrell wore a protective vest lined with plastic and legally carried a small bottle of pepper spray for protection.
Following the Stop the Steal rally, Worrell followed the crowd of thousands of people to Capitol Hill to protest. The situation was peaceful at first, but escalated when people began to push against the police barriers to get into the Capitol building.
Worrell never entered the building.
In videos he recorded on the scene, Worrell can repeatedly be heard calling for peace. One of the clips from his phone captures him telling an officer that he was “not coming through,” when he accidentally bumped into a barricade trying to back away from the situation.
During the chaos, Worrell saw people that he believed to be Antifa pushing towards the police. He maintains that he discharged his pepper spray towards the people he believed to be leftist agitators, to protect the officers. The government claims that he was trying to spray the police, but have not offered any evidence to back this up. Eventually, they conceded that the government “do[es] not currently know with certainty the target at which Worrell was spraying.”
The government has not offered any victim who was harmed or sustained injuries by the pepper spray.
When a large portion of the crowd broke through the police line and entered the building, Worrell left.
A warrant was issued for Worrell on March 12 and the FBI raided his home, but he was away on a camping trip. The FBI had his girlfriend call him and direct him to turn himself in. He immediately ended his trip and drove home, calling the FBI every 30 minutes during the ride to check in as instructed.
When he got home, he was arrested and his cell phone was seized. Worrell was fully cooperative, even providing the agents with his password.
Since then, Worrell has been denied bail while others who actually went inside have been granted it, despite his fragile medical condition.
On March 20, Worrell began developing new nodes, lesions, and itchy patches across his body, likely symptoms of his Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He has not received his cancer treatment or any other medications since his detention on March 12.
When his lawyers expressed their concern to the judge about his treatment on April 6, Chief Judge Howell argued that Worrell’s concerns about COVID are “disingenuous” because there were no photos submitted of him wearing a mask.
In an emergency filing on Thursday, Worrell’s lawyer John Pierce argued that the Fifth Amendment protects the right of pretrial detainees to receive adequate medical care and to be free from pre-conviction punishment.
Pierce noted that the Due Process Clause mandates release because the pandemic presents a grave harm outweighing the government’s interest in confinement.
“This Court should release him immediately, subject to certain conditions. Confinement of a high-risk cancer patient in a high-risk setting during a pandemic amounts to impermissible pretrial punishment, as it is not reasonably related to the Government’s interest in confinement,” the filing states.
Pierce also noted that the government claims that they are holding him to make sure there is a trial and he doesn’t flee — but if he dies, there will be no trial. The filing says that the prosecution’s position boils down to “we want him in custody, dead or alive.”
Worrell voluntarily and immediately turned his passport in upon a Florida federal magistrate judge’s order issued on March 12.
In addition to the other Constitutional concerns raised in the filing, Pierce noted that the Bail Reform Act shows that Worrell is neither a serious flight risk nor a danger to the community, and the Court should grant at least temporary release until the pandemic ends.