4 Cops Who Attended Jan. 6 D.C. Rally Ask High Court to Block Release of Their Identities

On Tuesday, four Seattle police officers who attended D.C.-based rallies on Jan. 6 asked the Washington Supreme Court to prevent the release of their identities. The case will decide if their anonymity is protected under the state's public records law.

A decision must also be made as to whether the officers can continue their court filings anonymously. The case was taken under advisement by the high court and will be ruled upon at a later date.

Officers' attorneys argue that the cops had a First Amendment right to attend a political rally. Releasing their names could subject them to potential violence and harassment, the officers' lawyers said.

However, Sam Sueoka, who filed a public records act request for the city's Office of Police Accountability investigation into the officer's activities on Jan. 6, has lawyers that said the public has a right to know who the officers are.

Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez and Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis asked the lawyers if maintaining privacy rights should be expected after attending the highly publicized rally.

"The question is if you go to a public event where there's press and the president is there and there is widespread national discussion about this event, how is participation in that event an intimate aspect of life?" Montoya-Lewis asked.

Six Seattle officers attended former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, D.C. The trip was made public after one officer posted a photo of herself with her husband and a fellow officer at the demonstration. Later, four other officers admitted to being there but denied they were involved in the riot.

"There's a clear First Amendment right to remain anonymous in public even when you're exercising your First Amendment rights in plain sight," said Aric Bomsztyk, a lawyer of one of the officers.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Rally, Donald Trump, Police officers
Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington in this file photo. The Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that will decide whether the identities of Seattle police officers who attended events in the nation's capital on the day of the insurrection are protected under the state's public records law. John Minchillo/AP Photo

The officers filed a lawsuit in February against Sueoka and others who filed public records requests seeking the officers' identities. A judge ordered the release of their names in March. The officers appealed. Sueoka asked the state Supreme Court to decide the issue.

Two of the officers, Caitlin and Alexander Everett, were identified and fired in August after an investigation found they broke the law by crossing barriers set up by the Capitol Police. The Everetts, a married couple, were standing next to the Capitol Building during the riots.

Investigators said the four other officers did not violate laws or police department policies. Those four have continued to fight against the release of their names.

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, representing dozens of media organizations, filed a brief in the case saying "full transparency will help restore public trust and provide assurance to the public that its law enforcement officers and agencies remain accountable to the communities they serve."

Neil Fox, one of Sueoka's lawyers, said the court should deny the officers' request to litigate these questions anonymously. That would force the release of their names and end the public records case.

"This is a case where they are public employees," Fox said. "Their names are already public record. There is a recognized public interest in knowing the identities of public employees who are the subject of investigations."

Rally, Police Officers, Donald Trump, Capital Riot
Demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, DC, on September 18, 2021, in support of the pro-Trump rioters who ransacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Washington was on high alert for the rally with security forces better prepared to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Four police officers who participated in the Jan. 6 rally are requesting the Washington Supreme Court to block the release of their identities. Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images