Day one of Daniel Baker trial includes FBI agent testimony, text message evidence
Jury selection took more than three hours Tuesday morning; 46 potential jurors were whittled down to 12, with one alternate.
In the afternoon, each side had time for opening statements, and the prosecution called four witnesses before jurors were released for the day at 5:00 p.m.
Stephen Kunz from the U.S. Attorney’s office gave the opening statement for the prosecution.
“The Government will prove every element of the charges,” he told the jury.
Kunz said the jury will be taken through a roadmap of evidence, from the Defend Tallahassee Facebook event created on January 12th, to the Call to Arms flyer, to a YouTube video of the printing of the flyer.
He also spoke about Baker’s background, including his enlistment in the army in 2006, his military training, and his “proficiency with weapons.”
“He had the intent, ability, and means to carry out these threats,” Kunz told the jury.
Attorney Randy Murrell gave the opening statement for the defense.
“This is not going to be a whodunnit,” Murrell told the jury.
Murrell said it’s a question of whether the evidence shows that Daniel Baker committed a crime.
Murrell said much of the Government’s testimony will be based on social media posts: “Some will miss their mark,” he added.
He cited the YPG photo of Baker as an example, telling jurors, “they may look like dangerous terrorists,” but noting they fought ISIS.
“Frankly, it’s a group of patriots,” Murrell said.
Murrell told jurors he would present evidence that would show Baker is not a violent felon, but that his big words are to offset his size and image, at 5′3 and 130 pounds.
He also told jurors Baker’s testimony later in the week would clear up any confusion about the social media posts.
Murrell said the Call to Arms and the Facebook event in particular hinged on a group of armed racists showing up at the Florida Capitol, attacking the Capitol, and overrunning police; he said that’s unlikely.
Government Witness Testimony
FBI agent Nicholas Marti was the first witness called by the prosecution.
Marti testified that he has worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the last year and a half, and was in the Marine Corps for eight years.
Marti testified about Baker’s social media posts, including items obtained from search warrants to Google (for Baker’s YouTube videos), Facebook, and Instagram.
He also testified about outgoing text messages found on Baker’s phone.
One text message on January 9th read, “Steel your nerves, buy a gun, train a few more days, then rest on the 19th.”
Text messages on January 14th said Baker was “not optimistic about surviving the weekend,” and described the “encirclement strategy” for protestors at the Capitol, beginning on Railroad Square and moving up Tennessee Street.
Marti testified that he had arrested Baker at his apartment and went to the FBI Tallahassee office. He said Baker told him when he got to prison he “would radicalize people in prison,” and said made social media posts to scare people because white nationalists were after him.
The government also showed a VICE News video, in which Baker was interviewed about fighting ISIS in Syria as a member of the YPG.
On cross examination, Murrell asked Marti if anyone had called the FBI to complain about Baker’s posts; Marti said no.
After Marti’s testimony, which lasted just under two hours, the Government called FBI Supervisory Agent Denise Bean to the stand.
Bean testified that she had been with the FBI for 18 years and interviewed Baker at a consulate while in the Middle East in 2019.
Bean said Baker told her about his involvement with the YPG and his month-long training at the International Training Academy. Bean testified that Baker said some of that training had not seemed tactically sound.
She said he was calm, well-organized, and polite. Bean testified that Baker told her about a January 2019 “Battle of the Bridge,” in which he killed two ISIS fighters on motorbikes with one bullet.
Jeffrey Wynn and Katie Hill both testified about an incident at the Tampa International Airport on January 6th, 2020.
Wynn is a supervisory TSA officer; he testified that he conducts general oversight of a federal checkpoint.
Wynn testified that Baker was pulled over for additional screening after an alarm for a potential explosive on his bag was detected; his person and bags were searched, but had nothing illegal.
The prosecution asked Wynn about Baker’s demeanor; Wynn testified that Baker spoke about his time in the U.S. Military and his time fighting with the Kurds, saying Baker told him he “enjoyed the thrill of the kill.”
‘”He was very proud of the things he was discussing, almost as if glamorizing himself,” said Wynn.
On cross-examination, Murrell confirmed that Baker was not charged with any wrongdoing at the Tampa International Airport, and he had no firearms or explosives in his carry-on luggage. He missed his flight and flew out the next day.
Day 2 of the trial begins at 8:30 on Wednesday morning.
Below you can see sketches from the first day of the trial, courtesy of Christopher Rivera.
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