Philly judge denies bail revocation for men accused of election interference

This Hummer was parked near the Pennsylvania Convention Center in November 2020. Inside, police found a semi-automatic rifle, ammunition, a lock-pick kit, among other items. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This Hummer was parked near the Pennsylvania Convention Center in November 2020. Inside, police found a semi-automatic rifle, ammunition, a lock-pick kit, among other items. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A Philadelphia judge has denied bail revocation for Joshua Macias and Antonio LaMotta, the men who allegedly drove up from Virginia in early November to interfere with the city’s ballot-counting operation.

Following a preliminary hearing on Thursday, prosecutors argued they should be jailed for violating their bail conditions while participating in last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol. Media footage, they said, caught both men on camera standing inside one of the building’s security perimeters during the insurrection, which unfolded as lawmakers sought to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

“They’re not just a danger to our community. They’re a danger to our country,” Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrock said after playing a clip from Global News, a Canadian news outlet.

Attorneys for Macias and LaMotta insisted their clients never stepped foot inside the Capitol.

While Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden denied motions to revoke bail for Macias and LaMotta, he said he would raise their bail from $750,000 to $1 million — and potentially hold them in contempt of court — if they were found participating in anything resembling the deadly riot in D.C.

And he told both men to brace for potential charges related to their actions in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6.

“I am very confident that this video will not just be reviewed in this courtroom. I suspect charges will be coming,” said Hayden.

Philadelphia police arrested Macias, 42, and LaMotta, 62, on Nov. 5 near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the site of the city’s massive mail ballot operation.

Both were charged with felony and misdemeanor weapons offenses.

During the preliminary hearing, Philadelphia Police Sgt. Timothy Stephan said he encountered the men near the corner of 13th and Arch streets around 10:30 p.m. Macias appeared to be filming something with his cellphone at the time, he said.

LaMotta, a self-employed bodyguard, had a loaded handgun holstered on his right hip — in plain sight. Stephan said he was detained after admitting he didn’t have a permit to openly carry the firearm.

Macias did have a permit from Virginia to carry the loaded handgun concealed on his person, said Stephan. Pennsylvania, however, does not have a reciprocity agreement with Virginia, leading the bike cop to believe Macias was committing a crime.

Police confiscated both guns and each man’s cellphone. Stephan said LaMotta gave permission to search a silver Hummer parked nearby. Inside, officers found a semiautomatic rifle, ammunition, and a lockpick kit, among other items.

During the hearing, the men were also charged with a trio of election-related offenses.

Defense attorney William Brennan, Macias’ lawyer, said his client was in Philadelphia to exercise his right to freedom of speech, not to interfere with the presidential election, which Biden won with the help of the thousands of mail ballots counted inside the Convention Center.

“To try to turn this thing into some kind of election-tampering case is a big stretch,” said Brennan.

Judge Hayden held both men on the new charges.

LaMotta will also face the weapons offenses at trial.

Macias will not — at least for now. Hayden dropped those charges based on an exception part of state law. Wellbrock said the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office plans to refile those charges.

“The commonwealth disagrees with that interpretation of the law,” Wellbrock said.

Macias and LaMotta will be arraigned on Jan. 28.

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