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News / Northwest

WA man accused of threatening Obama, others should be released on bail, argue attorneys

By Cory McCoy, Tri-City Herald
Published: August 11, 2023, 7:33am

KENNEWICK — Lawyers for an Eastern Washington man arrested after making threats toward former President Barack Obama and other lawmakers are asking the judge to release him to return to the Tri-Cities while he awaits a trial.

They say the judge could require him to get inpatient mental health treatment as a condition of his release.

Taylor Taranto, 37, of Pasco, has been in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Jail since the end of June after he was arrested allegedly trying to find access points to Obama’s property.

Investigators found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two guns and other weapons in his nearby van.

His lawyers are asking the court to grant Taranto bail and release him to the custody of a family member in filings ahead of an anticipated hearing, which was initially set for Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Nichols canceled that hearing in order to review a proposed mental health release plan submitted by Taranto’s public defender.

In a partially redacted court filing submitted to the court Wednesday, his attorneys proposed releasing Taranto to the custody of a relative and requiring him to adhere to a mental health treatment plan. The Navy veteran has told the court that he has been receiving treatment from the Veteran’s Affairs for PTSD.

In the filing, his attorneys outline a variety of programs available in the Tri-Cities and within driving distance.

The exact names of the programs are blacked out, but they are referred to as options for intensive in-patient and out-patient treatment, as well as ongoing regular psychiatric care.

His attorneys suggested releasing Taranto on the condition he immediately re-enrolls in regular mental health care with the local VA, and applies for in-patient treatment at one of the options.

In a previous filing Taranto’s attorney had said he was receiving treatment from the Puget Sound Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center which specializes in treatment for PTSD and mood disorders.

Nichols is expected to schedule a new hearing after making a decision on the bail appeal, according to court documents.

Arrest and bail arguments

The FBI had already been looking for Taranto, who has also been charged for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, after he threatened to use his van to bomb House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and a federal building.

He was also accused of accessing two separate elementary school campuses in an alleged attempt to intimidate Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, because of his role in the Jan. 6 panel and former President Donald Trump’s impeachments.

The original judge assigned to the case denied bail after prosecutors argued that Taranto presented a danger to the community. He was initially arrested on a warrant for four misdemeanors related to his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot. Prosecutors later added federal felony weapons charges for the recent threats, and the case was reassigned to Nichols.

His court assigned defense attorney argue that Taranto was not armed at the time, did not directly threaten anyone and complied with officers.

They also indicated that it is in his best interest for the court to require Taranto to continue seeking mental health treatment, stating that the Navy veteran is under the care of a psychiatric nurse practitioner and treatment from the VA.

They also questioned why the government did not attempt to charge or seek his arrest sooner. The Jan. 6 misdemeanor warrant was issued only after the bombing threats, according to court documents.

They said Taranto was not a threat, but acting as a “satirical reporter with an almost Jon Stewart or South Park-esque dry humor (that he would openly admit often did not land).”

At Taranto’s previous bail hearing it was revealed that he had been involved in a physical altercation with other Jan. 6 inmates after being booked into the jail, he was moved to protective custody afterward, but it is unclear if he is still being held with the other defendants. The issue was not mentioned in either side’s filings this week.

The reason for the attack was not clear but commenters on a Gateway Pundit article that Trump had linked to accused Taranto of being a “false flag” and a federal plant, despite his long history of promoting similar conspiracy theories about federal agents and Antifa being the real cause of Jan. 6.

Trump had linked the article because was upset that photos of Taranto pictured with a cardboard cutout of him taken at a Franklin County Republicans event were being used in news articles.

Other articles on the right-wing site, known for promoting conspiracy theories, have quoted other Jan. 6 defendants as they attempt to raise questions about Taranto being a “plant” sent to the jail to entrap them.

Taranto is a one-time Pasco school board candidate and former webmaster for the Franklin County Republican Party. He had been traveling back and forth between the Tri-Cities and D.C. over the past two years to participate in various protests, according to now deleted social media videos.

He was in the Tri-Cities as recently as April participating in a protest against a drag show brunch at Emerald of Siam. Despite his recent local activity, the Franklin County Republican Central Committee says it cut all ties with Taranto last year.

January 6

Taranto is accused of extensive involvement in the Jan. 6 riots. Court documents show him near many key events, such as Ashley Babbitt’s death and just feet away from Jacob Chansley, the QAnon Shaman, after exiting the building.

He is also a co-defendant in a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer. Taranto is accused of handing a weapon to David Walls-Kaufman, who then used it to repeated hit Officer Jeffrey Smith in the head.

Smith died by suicide nine days later as he was set to return to work.

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Smith’s widow said in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, published in January 2022, that two medical examiners “have testified that post-concussive syndrome and brain injury were the real causes of (her husband’s) death” because the concussion he suffered led to severe depression and suicide.