MACON, Ga. (WRBL) – An Americus, Ga., man who filmed himself participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol and posted the images and videos to social media, has been denied bond in federal court by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles H. Weigle.
William McCall Calhoun, a 57-year-old attorney, was one of thousands of supporters of former president Donald Trump who went to Washington in protest of the election results in November’s General Election.
Calhoun appeared before Judge Weigle in Macon on Jan. 21.
Charges and counsel
Calhoun now faces three federal charges for his participation in the protests, which turned violent and led to multiple deaths and injuries, including the death of a Capitol police officer.
Calhoun’s charges are:
- 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a) – knowingly enter or remain in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so…
- 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2) – enter or remain on the floor of either House of Congress or in any cloakroom or lobby adjacent to that floor, in the Rayburn Room of the House of Representatives, or in the Marble Room of the Senate unless authorized to do so pursuant to rules adopted, or an authorization given, by that House…
- 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) – obstruct, influence, or impede any official proceeding–to include a proceeding before the Congress–or make an attempt to do so.
The preliminary hearing featured attorneys for both the U.S. Federal Government, represented by Asst. U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen, and Calhoun’s defense counselor, Timothy Saviello, from Federal Defenders of the Middle District of Georgia, Inc.
FBI Special Agent Timothy Armentrout detailed how the FBI had received tips and reports about Calhoun as early as Nov. 12, 2020.
Armentrout’s testimony, Government Exhibits, Calhoun’s social media habits
During questioning from both the federal government’s attorney in the case and Calhoun’s defense, Armentrout detailed Calhoun’s history of posts to his various social media accounts before and after the November General Election.
Following the violence in Washington, Armentrout says Americus Police Chief Mark Scott had also reached out to the FBI by text message regarding Calhoun’s attendance at the Capitol riots. Central to the evidence presented by the Dept. of Justice were multiple posts by Calhoun on Parler, Twitter, and Facebook before, during, and after the events of Jan. 6.
An ardent Trump supporter, Calhoun’s online history contained multiple instances of language that the DOJ says shows preparation for what unfolded in Washington. As early as Nov. 12, 2020, Calhoun had reportedly been brought to the FBI’s attention over his social media posts regarding the election.
On Jan. 6, Calhoun was at the Capitol, and his posts showed the moments where rioters entered the building, leading to an evacuation of the joint session of Congress and temporary halt to election certification. Calhoun’s social posts were extensively detailed as exhibits by the DOJ. Going as far back as October 2020, the posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Parler show violent rhetoric involving “slaughter,” “headshots,” and “slinging hot lead.”
According to Armentrout, video shows Calhoun among the crowds as “they pushed past the barricades” at the Capitol.
Timeline of events leading to Calhoun entering federal custody
Calhoun’s sister, Mary, says she spoke with Calhoun before he left for D.C. Describing herself in court as someone who gives good advice, Mary was asked by Ewen if she gave him advice about his trip to the Capitol.
Mary said she believed at the time there was “nothing to discourage.” The siblings discussed weapon restrictions at the Capitol, and Calhoun left for Washington.
The events of Jan. 6 are not a mystery, with plenty of video evidence and witness accounts detailing what President Trump’s supporters sought to accomplish while at the Capitol. Calhoun’s own social media accounts are just one example of the documented actions in Washington.
Calhoun’s videos and photographs of events at the Capitol got traction online. He gave an exclusive interview to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailing what happened in Washington.
Shortly after returning to Georgia, Special Agent Armentrout says Calhoun’s Facebook profile was deleted. Evidence submitted by the federal government for the case shows Calhoun reacting to a ban on the popular social media site, but continuing to post on Parler and Twitter.
As the FBI continued to investigate, warrants were issued allowing them to surveil Calhoun as he returned to working in Americus, Ga. and Sumter County.
Arrest warrant issued, Calhoun goes to Macon
When Calhoun got back to Georgia, he went about his business, representing his legal clients in Sumter County.
Saviello says that Calhoun had received multiple threatening calls describing his home/office and threatening him and his family. He called his sister, Mary Calhoun, to ask to stay with her at her home in Macon.
An arrest warrant was issued for Calhoun on the evening Jan. 13. Agents had already been surveilling Calhoun, and after receiving the warrant, Armentrout says agents went to his home on S. Lee Street to take him into custody.
When they arrived, Calhoun was gone.
Inside his home, the agents found and seized clothing Calhoun was seen wearing in social media posts published while he participated in the violence at the Capitol.
After receiving the threatening calls over his presence in D.C., his attorney says Calhoun contacted his sister and asked if he could stay at her home in Macon. Calhoun’s travel to his sister’s home is why he wasn’t in Americus when agents arrived, Saviello said in court.
Due to the threatening calls, and a concern that if he left the legally owned weapons at his Americus residence, someone may break in and take them, Calhoun also asked Mary for permission to bring several weapons to his sister’s home.
Mary agreed, and he brought multiple weapons, and hundreds to thousands of rounds of ammo, according to Armentrout. Upon being taken into custody, agents found Calhoun with
Federal agents searched Calhoun’s residence only to find him missing, they seized the clothing he was seen wearing in photos while at the riots.
On Jan. 15, Armentrout says agents went to his sister’s home in Macon to take Calhoun into custody. When they arrived, Armentrout says Mary answered the door and Calhoun was compliant as agents entered the home to take him into custody, and found multiple weapons and quantities of ammunition inside.
Defense, prosecution argue over threat to community, flight risk
Saviello’s argument in Calhoun’s defnse was his client’s social media posts on the day of the riot amount to narration of events rather than encouragements or participation in actively obstructing the election certification proceedings. He argued that the federal government failed to meet the burden of probable cause, due to what Saviello called is “circumstantial evidence.”
Calhoun’s sister Mary’s testimony about providing a safe place for him to stay pending trial. She said that they would be able to meet any conditions the court ordered for Calhoun not to be detained while awaiting a potential indictment.
The federal government argued that due to defendant’s heavily documented social media posts involving violence and extreme rhetoric, Calhoun presents a threat to the community, has prompted dangerous conduct and has “followed through” on such suggested actions.
Judge Weigle’s decision
Judge Weigle’s decision focused on several factors, including his actions and behavior as a longtime Georgia lawyer and Americus resident, as well as more recent events.
“As the defense has pointed out, there’s no criminal history, no significant criminal history in the case. What is of concern in this case is the events of the last six months,” Weigle said, “Clearly something has changed.”
Still, Weigle’s final decision on granting bond or detaining Calhoun came down to his more recent behavior.
What we have first of all, we have the defendant’s own statements, made publicly on social media, extensively, which reveal, first of all that he has been corrupted by or seduced by dangerous and violent ideology that considers the United States of being in a state of civil war, that considers everyone who voted Democrat to be worthy of execution, that considers government officials and agents to be members of a ‘deep state’ that has to be opposed by so-called patriots.Judge Charles H. Weigle, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Middle District of Georgia
The language used in those posts is extremely violent, I won’t repeat the terms he used, multiple times, about slaughtering, about headshots, and threats to hang President Biden, to tear Nancy Pelosi to shreds.
Now, as Mr. Saviello pointed out, everybody on the internet, is full of you know what, everybody’s a liar on the internet, and the internet does encourage this kind of language, so I have to take into account the possibility that this might just be some kind of rhetorical act or showmanship, but we also have the defendant’s actions.
First of all, we have the fact that he was, when he was arrested, was found to be heavily armed. With multiple weapons and hundreds if not thousands of rounds of ammunition, but the biggest issue is he was in the Capitol on January the 6th, 2021. We’ve seen the video, he admitted it multiple times, bragged about it, said it was your patriotic duty to do. He crossed a sacred, sacred line.
That was an act of extreme violence, by every single person who went in there. I look at this courtroom, this is not my courtroom, my courtroom is much more humble than this. We build buildings like this to reflect the majesty of the law, and the Constitution of United States…we don’t rely entirely on the force of arms but on the symbolism, the sacredness of the law, on the government of the United States. And the Capitol Building is the pinnacle of that.
When you and your friends went in there, and tore the place to shreds and killed five people, including a police officer, you showed that you were willing to–that there was nothing that would hold you back, except force.
That’s why there are 25,000 National Guard members at the inauguration yesterday. It’s a shame and a scandal for our entire country. And if you don’t respect the Capitol Police, you don’t respect the Capitol Building of the United States, I don’t have any reason to believe that you will respect anything I tell you to do…Now certainly, if you think that every agent and officer of government in each state is involved in some gigantic conspiracy, then I have no comfort in sending a probation officer to your house to meet with you. I would be afraid for their life, I’d be afraid for my life, because of what you said and what you’ve done…