Two supporters of President Donald Trump who were arrested after driving a Hummer loaded with guns and ammunition to a Philadelphia vote-counting site in November 2020 were convicted on weapons charges Wednesday but acquitted of election interference.
Prosecutors argued that vets for Trump co-founder Joshua Masia and co-defendant Antonio LaMotta, both of Virginia, planned the mass shooting as the outcome of the presidential election remained uncertain.
However, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons rejected that theory, finding the men guilty only of carrying weapons into the city without a permit on November 5, 2020.
LaMotta is separately charged with federal misdemeanors stemming from his alleged illegal entry into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Both men remain free on bail pending a scheduled sentencing in December, when they face a possible suspended sentence of 18 months in prison, said defense attorney William J. Brennan.
“The commonwealth presented no evidence that they came here to interfere in an election,” Brennan, who represents Macias, said after the one-day non-jury trial. “They came, stared at a building, talked to some police officers and didn’t bother anyone.”
The pair were arrested after the FBI in Virginia passed on a tip about their plans to Philadelphia police. Officers stopped the men, who had driven up from Virginia Beach, about a block from the vehicle. Each man had a gun on him, while an AR-style rifle and ammunition were found inside the vehicle, which had an American flag and a window sticker for the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.
Prosecutor Larry Krasner had publicly called Makia a “shark” with ties to far-right extremist groups. The defense painted him as a veteran and an active member of an evangelical church.
Despite the judge’s verdict Wednesday, Krasner maintained his view that the pair drove to Philadelphia to disrupt the election.
“If you commit a crime while seeking to undermine people’s right to vote and have their votes counted properly, you will be held accountable,” he said in a statement.
LaMotta’s attorney called the election charges “baseless and based on nothing more than speculation.”
“This is a weapon. Even though it may have turned into a case of politics, it was always a case of guns, and the verdict reflects that,” attorney Lauren Wimmer told The Associated Press.
___ Follow AP Legal Affairs Writer Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale