WASHINGTON — On Friday night, a Fox News guest who represents several Jan. 6 defendants sent out a series of tweets suggesting that one of the people who unleashed bear spray at officers at the U.S. Capitol was an undercover officer.
In fact, he was a Trump supporter who had already been arrested and charged. On Monday morning, he pleaded guilty.
Edward Rodriguez, 28, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, inflicting bodily injury. Online sleuths, who identified Rodriguez in early 2021, had nicknamed him “Suit Macer,” because he was wearing a suit and “maced” a line of officers.
In a nearly empty courtroom a few blocks from the Capitol, Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Widman laid out the facts the government said it could prove in court: that Rodriquez traveled by train to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and joined a charter bus that arrived hours before President Donald Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, 2021, in the middle of the night. It could prove, Widman said, that while he was on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol, Rodriquez used a can of bear attack spray to directly assault three police officers and indirectly assault four others and that one of the officers, who was wearing contact lenses at the time, had to be assisted by a supervisor because of the overwhelming, intense pain.
Rodriguez did at least two media interviews on Jan. 6, wearing the same outfit he was wearing when he assaulted seven police officers under mob attack, the government said.
“Here in America, we fight back. We will never surrender to dictatorship, corruption, communism or socialism. We the people will never put up with their bulls—,” Rodriguez said in one of the interviews, according to the government.
The government also pointed to an inquiry Rodriguez made on Google after the attack: “What does bear spray do to humans?”
Rodriguez, who bounced around at the podium wearing a bright blue suit, nearly backed out of his plea agreement after the judge read the consequences of a felony plea. He pointed out adamantly that he was hit with pepper spray first. He admitted that he caused officers to be harmed but quickly noted that it happened “right after I got sprayed, of course.” He said he found the bear spray on the ground.
U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, a 2017 Trump appointee, eventually accepted the plea after Rodriguez took a break to speak to his lawyer. Friedrich set sentencing for July 18.
Leaving the courthouse, Rodriguez was a bit more camera-shy than he was on Jan. 6, using his gloved hand to try to obstruct a view of his face when he saw a reporter taking photos of his departure. He hopped into an Uber ride with his lawyer.
Online, however, some people now think Suit Macer is a fed. Joseph McBride, a New York lawyer representing several Jan. 6 defendants, tweeted Friday about a Washington police document, apparently turned over in discovery, that noted that undercover officers were supposed to wear rainbow-colored wristbands on Jan. 6. He then posted an image of a man pepper-spraying officers while wearing a wristband.
“It’s probably just a coincidence…,” McBride wrote.
Pro-Trump social media users ate it up, thinking an undercover officer had pepper-sprayed fellow officers. “Wow! Caught red handed!!!” a Twitter user wrote. “If this photograph and document are genuine, then this is evidence of a police officer spraying something toxic at another police officer,” another wrote. “These would be the metaphorical ‘smoking gun’ level evidence of the Fedsurrection.” Another user agreed: It was a “Smoking gun” that showed “Wristbands identifying J6 government instigators.”
A few basic details didn’t match: The wristband was on the assailant’s right hand, not his left, as the Washington police document described. It also wasn’t rainbow-colored; it appeared to be red, white and blue. Most important, the owner of that wrist had already been identified, arrested and charged: Video of those officers being sprayed show that the wrist was Rodriguez’s. He was scheduled to plead guilty within 72 hours of McBride’s tweet.
McBride, who recently went on Fox News to discuss the out-of-context Jan. 6 videos played by Tucker Carlson, declined to say whether, at the time of his tweet, the person with the wristband had already been identified and would soon enter a guilty plea.
“I’m going to give a no comment on that one,” McBride told NBC News on Tuesday. “Look, you know, we have a job to do. There’s an information war.”
McBride said he wouldn’t intentionally lie to the public. “I would never knowingly put any false information out into the public, that’s not what I do. And that’s the truth,” he said Tuesday.
About 1,000 members of the pro-Trump mob have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.