Trial of man accused of threatening violence at Florida Capitol begins

A gavel in a courtroom.
A gavel in a courtroom. (Pexels)

TALLAHASSEE – A federal jury began hearing arguments Tuesday in the trial of a Tallahassee man accused of plotting to violently confront would-be protesters at the Florida Capitol in January.

Daniel Baker was arrested Jan. 15 after making a series of social media posts issuing a “call to arms” in anticipation of demonstrations by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The posts were made amid heightened security at the state Capitol after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan.6. Baker is charged with transmission, in interstate commerce, of a communication containing a threat to kidnap or to injure.

If convicted, he would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor said Baker’s trial is expected to last several days.

During the jury selection process, a group of nearly 50 potential jurors were asked whether they have strong beliefs about firearms or the events of Jan. 6. A panel of 12 jurors and one alternate juror was selected, made up of seven men and six women.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kunz argued in his opening statement that Baker intended to “recruit and train like-minded individuals” through his social media posts. Prosecutors argued that Baker’s military experience and knowledge of weapons gave credence to the written threats.

Baker served in the military for roughly a year until 2007, before receiving an “other-than-honorable” discharge according to information published by the U.S. Attorney’s office in January. After being discharged, Baker joined a group fighting in Syria against ISIS and the Turkish government.

Public defender Randolph Murrell, who is representing Baker, argued in his opening statement that the case centers on “whether or not there were true threats made.”

Murrell also set out to prove that Baker’s social media posts are “not quite what they appear to be,” arguing that Baker did not intend to initiate violence but does “believe in self-defense.”