Judge agrees to release local Capitol riot suspect despite new charges

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno anti-mask activist jailed for his alleged role in the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 is now facing new charges because of what federal agents found when they went to arrest him.

But Ben Martin could be out of jail the same day prosecutors filed the new charges.

Federal prosecutors have an image of Ben Martin as someone with a violent history who's escalating and lashing out not just at his inner circle, but publicly.

Their portrayal is based partly on a series of images from the U.S. Capitol.

Martin got a lot of attention in the Valley for his anti-mask protests outside grocery stores, including Sprouts, which now has a restraining order against him.

He came to the FBI's attention after the Jan. 6 riot.

He told investigators he got between officers and the crowd and was trying to calm everyone down.

Video showed him yelling at officers to let them in the Capitol, clashing with officers at the door, and walking inside through the hallway.

Prosecutors filed six felony charges against him last month.

"He's going to have to explain away what's on his Facebook and really explain away what was videotaped at the Capitol building while this was going on," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Agents say when they went to arrest him in Madera, they also found a safe in his room.

Inside, they found four rifles, two shotguns, a pistol, and an assault rifle.

He's not allowed to have firearms because of a domestic violence conviction in 2018 and a 2021 restraining order protecting his sister.

None of the weapons are registered and agents say Martin told them the firearms belonged to his father-in-law, but they also found his birth certificate and passport in the safe.

They also found a receipt showing Martin bought one of the shotguns.

Prosecutors filed an illegal firearms possession case against Martin Wednesday.

Capozzi says the charge will be another tough one to fight.

"He has access to the guns," Capozzi said. "He has access to the safe. So it's clear if it's not actual possession, it's constructive possession of the firearms even though he says they belong to someone else."

Through his attorney, Martin has denied all the charges.

On Wednesday, a federal magistrate agreed to release him pending trial with homes belonging to his fiancée and his parents as his bond.

His attorney hasn't laid out a defense yet, but he told the judge Martin isn't going anywhere and he won't hurt anybody when he's out of jail.

He's due back in federal court in less than two weeks.
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