Lawyer accused in Capitol riot continues to defend clients; state bar takes wait-and-see approach
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A Georgia lawyer accused of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot continues to represent criminal defendants, including a man on trial last week for murder.
The lawyer, 58-year-old William McCall Calhoun Jr. of Americus, Georgia, was indicted on three charges in February 2021. One of the charges—entering the Capitol to obstruct an official proceeding—is a felony, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
During the murder trial, Calhoun “hardly came across as a fire-eating ideologue or wild-eyed conspiracy theorist,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Jurors weren’t informed of the charges against Calhoun, although at one point, his court-ordered ankle monitor “could be seen poking from beneath the pant leg” of his suit, the article reports.
Judge Jimmie Brown of Sumter County, Georgia, told jurors that they should not conduct their own research about the murder case, and they should not “Google any of the attorneys.”
Calhoun rejected a plea deal in his own case last month, WUSA previously reported.
“They offered me a felony,” Calhoun told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during a break in his client’s trial. “I know I didn’t commit a felony.” Calhoun said he thought that he entered the Capitol in a “peaceful protest.”
Calhoun told the publication that he traveled to the Capitol with a friend who has since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Calhoun said he should be treated similarly instead of receiving “the Osama bin Laden treatment.”
The State Bar of Georgia is waiting until the charges against Calhoun are resolved before taking any action.
“The bar does not govern personal conduct by a lawyer,” bar spokeswoman Jennifer Mason told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Mr. Calhoun’s participation in the riots was personal conduct and does not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct unless it constituted a crime.”
“Our rules require that the lawyer be convicted before we act because, just like any other person accused of a crime, our system grants defendants a presumption of innocence,” Mason said.
Lawyer Lester Tate, a former president of the State Bar of Georgia, disagreed with that assessment of the bar’s power. He said the bar can seek an interim suspension, as is allowed when lawyers pose a substantial threat of harm to clients or the public.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points to social media posts before the riot that, in its view, suggest that Calhoun “was prepared for violence.”
In one post on the social media site Parler for example, Calhoun referred to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York as a “dead commie walking,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. In another, an informant told the FBI, Calhoun allegedly wrote, “We are going to kill every last communist who stands in Trump’s way.”
Calhoun, however, said he never threatened anyone.
“The Democrats want to crush all dissent,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I speak my mind. I did before, and I do now.”
ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer is arrested in Capitol assault after Facebook bragging”