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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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Judicial Watch Asks Court to Deny Biden Justice Department Request to Transfer Ashli Babbitt $30 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit from California to Washington, DC

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has asked a federal court to deny the U.S. Government’s request to transfer the Ashli Babbitt wrongful death lawsuit from California to Washington, DC. Among other legal points, Judicial Watch argues it would prejudice the case and be unjust for Ashli’s family if it were transferred to the hostile forum of District of Columbia.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on January 5, 2024, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on behalf of the family of Ashli Babbitt, the U.S. Air Force veteran who was shot and killed inside the U.S. Capitol by then-Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd on January 6, 2021 (Estate of Ashli Babbitt and Aaron Babbitt, et al. v. United States of America (No. 3:24-cv-00033)).

Babbitt was a 35-year-old resident of San Diego, CA, where she owned and operated a successful pool business with her husband Aaron. Ashli traveled alone from San Diego to Washington, DC, to attend the Women for America First (aka Save America) rally on January 6, 2021, at the Ellipse.

As the Judicial Watch complaint recounts:

The shooting occurred at the east entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby. After demonstrators filled the hallway outside the lobby, two individuals in the crowded, tightly packed hallway struck and dislodged the glass panels in the lobby doors and the right door sidelight. Lt. Byrd, who is a United States Capitol Police commander and was the incident commander for the House on January 6, 2021, shot Ashli on sight as she raised herself up into the opening of the right door sidelight. Lt. Byrd later confessed that he shot Ashli before seeing her hands or assessing her intentions or even identifying her as female. Ashli was unarmed. Her hands were up in the air, empty, and in plain view of Lt. Byrd and other officers in the lobby.

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The facts speak truth. Ashli was ambushed when she was shot by Lt. Byrd. Multiple witnesses at the scene yelled, “you just murdered her.”

Lt. Byrd was never charged or otherwise punished or disciplined for Ashli’s homicide.

On March 26, 2024, Judicial Watch filed its opposition to the Biden Justice Department’s request’s request to transfer venue of the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Arguing against the change of venue, Judicial Watch points out that under federal law a “civil action against the United States may be brought in any judicial district in which the plaintiff resides,” and “a civil action on a tort claim against the United States may be prosecuted in the judicial district where the plaintiff resides.”

Judicial Watch argues:

Defendant’s position [to transfer venue] illustrates and underscores the prejudice and injustice that Plaintiffs would face if venue were transferred to the District of Columbia. Defendant mentions 80 Capitol Police officers and 60 Metropolitan Police officers that were injured and connects the deaths of three officers to the events on that day, thus connecting Ashli Babbitt to these deaths and other injuries, as if she caused them. The request for a change in venue is clearly influenced by Defendant’s strongest motivation for changing venue, which is to select the forum where it feels it would receive a favorable process and outcome based on adversity against January 6 participants. By its motion, Defendant hopes to unfairly and unjustly connect Ashli Babbitt to violence, injuries, and deaths for which she is blameless and connect her by association to thousands of individuals convicted of misdemeanors and felonies for which she was never charged and is unable to present a defense due to the lawless actions of one of Defendant’s employees in shooting and killing her.

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It’s no secret that the District of Columbia is a hostile forum for January 6 defendants. It’s also prejudicially biased against Ashli Babbitt. For example, during a recent sentencing hearing in the District of Columbia in United States v. Daniel Goodwyn … District Judge Reggie B. Walton made the following statement to the defendant and his counsel regarding the shooting of Ashli Babbitt:

THE COURT: You should not have been – you cannot convince me that somehow what she was doing was somehow justified and the police did not have a justification for taking the actions that they took. You can’t convince me of that.

Judge Walton’s statement evidences he has already predetermined a crucial issue in this case – whether Ashli Babbitt’s killing was justified. Judge Walton made other biased comments on the record, including, “Well, she shouldn’t have been coming through the window,” and “this man who was protecting the Capitol ends up being called a thug … that is just mind boggling.” … Unfortunately, Judge Walton is speaking what many others are at least thinking behind the bench in the District of Columbia. This Court is the only venue which offers Plaintiffs a chance of receiving a fair trial.

“Let’s be blunt, the Biden DOJ wants to move the Ashli Babbitt wrongful death lawsuit to DC because it knows the courts here are notoriously hostile to anyone tied to the January 6 protests,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Judicial Watch is extensively investigating the events of January 6.

In January 2024, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of Aaron Babbitt and the Ashli Babbitt Estate against the U.S. Department of Justice for all FBI files on Ashli Babbitt.

In October 2023, Judicial Watch received the court-ordered declaration of James W. Joyce, senior counsel in the Office of the General Counsel for the Capitol Police, in which he describes emails among senior officials of the United States Capitol Police in January 2021 that show warnings of possible January 6 protests that could lead to serious disruptions at the U.S. Capitol.

In September 2023, Judicial Watch received records from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, a component of the Department of Justice, in a FOIA lawsuit that detail the extensive apparatus the Biden Justice Department set up to investigate and prosecute January 6 protestors.

A previous review of records from that lawsuit highlighted the prosecution declination memorandum justifying the decision not to prosecute U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd for the shooting death of Babbitt.

In January 2023, documents from the Department of the Air Force, Joint Base Andrews, MD, showed U.S. Capitol Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd was housed at taxpayer expense at Joint Base Andrews after he shot and killed U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In November 2021, Judicial Watch released multiple audiovisual and photo records from the DC Metropolitan Police Department about the shooting death of Ashli Babbitt on January 6, 2021, in the U.S. Capitol Building. The records included a cell phone video of the shooting and an audio of a brief police interview of the shooter, Byrd.

In October 2021, United States Park Police records related to the January 6, 2021, demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol showed that on the day before the January 6 rally featuring President Trump, U.S. Park Police expected a “large portion” of the attendees to march to the U.S. Capitol and that the FBI was monitoring the January 6 demonstrations, including travel to the events by “subjects of interest.”

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