HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — An ex-cop convicted in a conspiracy case for her participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection cannot be released from custody pending an appeal, a federal judge has ruled.
Representation for Laura Steele filed a motion for “continued release from custody pending an appeal” on Oct. 28, stating that “there were no reported violations by Ms Steele of the terms and conditions of her pre-trial release and in fact, as she proved to be blemishless on release, the Court periodically eased her conditions such that by the time the case came to trial, Ms Steele was effectively on her personal recognizance.”
They went on to state that Steele also did not have any violations in the time between her conviction and sentencing, and that as such “there is no factual basis to determine that Ms Steele is more of a flight risk or danger to the community now than she was on the date of the verdict” and should therefore be allowed to remain out of custody during the appeals process.
On Nov. 2, the government released a document opposing Steele’s motion, writing in part that “while the Court found after the defendant’s verdict and sentencing that she did not present a risk of flight or danger, the government submits that the nature of her conviction of conspiring to oppose the transfer of presidential power by, among other things, obstructing the official proceedings, and the nature of her conduct damaging government property, engaging in civil disorder on January 6, and deleting evidence afterward, all demonstrate that she is a danger to the community and flight risk.”
The government argued that the potential flight risk was only one part of the equation, stating that she also needed to prove “that the appeal is not for the purpose of delay and raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a reduced sentence to a term of imprisonment less than the total of the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal process.” The attorneys said that Steele failed to present a “substantial question” about the case and “fell far short” of “rebutting the presumption of detention.”
On Nov. 7, the defense replied to the government’s opposition to their motion, “This is a matter of fundamental constitutional solemnity and if allowed to go unaddressed by the courts would constitute a monumental shift in 230 years of criminal jurisprudence regarding the unwavering, non-shifting, and absolute burden of proof upon the government in any criminal trial.”
The courts ultimately sided with the government’s opposition, declining the motion to stay and writing, “It is unclear from Defendant’s vague description” what issues she intends to raise on appeal, therefore falling short of proving that the appeal would likely result in “favorable relief,” such as a reversal of conviction, a new trial, or a new sentencing.
“Having failed to raise a ‘substantial question of law or fact,’ Defendant’s Motion for Continued Release from Custody Pending Appeal, ECF No. 1078, is denied,” the judge wrote.
Steele was sentenced to a year in prison, six months of home incarceration and three years of supervised release back in September after a lengthy trial over her involvement in the Capitol Riot, where she and a group of other Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, stormed the capitol to disrupt elections proceedings.
Steele was convicted in a group of several other Oath Keepers who were largely all convicted for their involvement. Steele, additionally, was convicted on charges that she burned evidence in the backyard of her Thomasville home after the fact.
She had previously worked as a High Point police officer but had been terminated. Her husband also worked for the High Point Police Department but retired in early January 2021. Both of their sons work as High Point police officers.