A Pennsylvania mother of eight charged in the U.S. Capitol riot was forced to make an abject apology to a judge Monday after she thumbed her nose at a court order to wear a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
Riot suspect Rachel Powell, known as the “Bullhorn Lady” for her megaphone directions to others during the Capitol siege, actions that were captured on video, was freed on bail last month before her trial.
As a condition of her release, she was ordered her to wear a mask outside her home in Sandy Lake. The anti-mask advocate was later photographed at work smiling in a see-through mesh mask in a video posted to social media.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth blasted the mesh mask as “mocking” the court’s condition for Powell’s release. “No reasonable person could think that defendant’s ‘mask’ complied” with the requirement … “imposed to ensure that defendant ‘would not pose a risk to the health and safety of the community when she left her house,’” he said in his ruling.
Lamberth ordered Powell to show cause why he shouldn’t hold her in contempt of court and return her to jail.
Powell’s attorney Michael Engle issued an apology on her behalf for her “poor choice and her unwise conduct,” in a court memorandum filed Monday.
“The Defendant wishes to apologize to this Honorable Court, and to Pre-Trial Services, for her poor choice and her unwise conduct in this matter. It was not Ms. Powell’s intention to mock compliance with her condition of release or to flout the Court’s Order,” the document argued.
Engle claimed Powell was under pressure by her boss not to wear a mask, and she considered the hole-riddled mesh mask some kind of compromise.
Engle said the mask was inspired by one worn by singer Lana Del Rey, who created a mesh mask with a clear plastic film underneath. There’s no indication, however, that there was any plastic shield beneath Powell’s mask — nor did the lawyer make that claim in the filing. Powell can be heard speaking very clearly through the mesh in the social media post.
Powell discarded the mask before it could be examined. Engle was adamant in the apology memo that he did not advise her to do so.
“As an officer of this Court, and an attorney with over 20 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer who enjoys an excellent reputation and an impeccable track-record, the undersigned counsel can state with absolute certainty that he never advised, counseled, instructed, hinted, or otherwise suggested that the Defendant should throw away the mask at issue,” he noted.
Lambert has yet to rule on contempt of court.
Powell is accused in the indictment of storming into a restricted section of the Capitol on Jan. 6 wielding an ice ax and a large wooden pole as a “ramming device.” She also used a bullhorn “to instruct other how to gain further access into the Capitol,” according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors say she aimed to disrupt the congressional certification of the democratic election of Joe Biden, and she destroyed a window in her path, causing more than $1,000 in damage.
She has been charged with several crimes, including physical violence at the Capitol, obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of government property.
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