Rosemarie Westbury’s life was turned upside down on April 9. Armored vehicles carrying federal agents equipped with fully-automatic rifles and battering rams were looking for her son.
It was 6:30 in the morning and Rosemarie was on her way to work as the sole breadwinner of the family. Her 62-year-old husband, Robert, has had eight strokes.
She received a terrifying call from one of her sons: the FBI was at their door.
“I was scared to death, not knowing what was going on,” she said, weeping at the recollection of that terrible morning.
“They clear the house, room by room, kicking and throwing things. They were pointing their rifles in people’s faces. They handcuffed and shackled each member of the house. Brought them out, shirtless, barefoot, and it was cold, if you remember, it was very cold in April,” Rosemarie continued.
This was the first of two pre-dawn, no-knock raids executed against her family. On that day, her middle son, Jonah, was charged in connection to the FBI’s January 6 “Capitol Breach” investigation. Jonah’s brother, Isaac, has a seizure condition and was in an ICU that same day.
“He was intubated at Region’s Hospital, fighting for his life, really. So it’s not been a wonderful year for us,” said Rosemarie.
Now, four of her immediate relatives account for half of Minnesota’s January 6 defendants.
“This has been one of the most challenging times that I think we’ve ever faced,” Rosemarie told Alpha News in a recent interview. “Send up prayers, not just for my family. This is something that’s so far-reaching. I mean, there’s so many that have been traumatized. They’ve just been traumatized by this whole situation.”
Her attorney, John Pierce, likened the Westbury family to the story of “Saving Private Ryan,” a film in which three brothers are killed in World War II.
The next round of arrests came on Oct. 4, when an “excess of 25” FBI agents raided the Westbury home for a second time and arrested Robert, Isaac, and Aaron James, a half-brother to Jonah and Isaac. The Westbury brothers all currently live at home, though Jonah rents an apartment on the property that isn’t connected to the main house and Aaron, who lost his job because of the charges, rents a suite in the basement.
Rosemarie again broke down in tears recalling the second raid. She managed to get these words out: “I can’t believe our government is doing this to its citizens.”
That was a particularly emotional time for Rosemarie. Just a few days prior to Oct. 4, her sister-in-law died unexpectedly. She and Aaron attempted to travel to Georgia for the funeral, but they were “put on the FBI’s counterterrorism watchlist,” she claimed.
At this point, Aaron hadn’t been charged yet, and Rosemarie has never been charged. She was there on January 6 but didn’t enter the Capitol.
She and Aaron were “flocked” by TSA agents, questioned, and searched for more than two hours, she said.
“We missed our flight and they didn’t have another flight going. So we didn’t make it,” Rosemarie added.
The family had several of their belongings seized during both raids, including Rosemarie, who lost an old cellphone and computer that haven’t been returned.
Unlike many January 6 defendants, all members of the Westbury family were released the same days they were arrested. They are currently out on “pretrial release,” which comes with conditions like not being able to have firearms, according to Pierce.
“Everybody essentially knows who they are and they have no way to protect themselves,” he said.
“We’ve had hate mail sent to my home, death threats sent to my home,” Rosemarie chimed in.
Robert and Jonah are facing “catch-all” charges of disorderly conduct, parading in a capitol building, and entering a restricted building. Aaron and Isaac are facing the same charges but are also accused of “engaging in physical violence” and “assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers.”
Rosemarie said there were no signs or barricades at the Capitol by the time her relatives arrived, giving them no indication that they couldn’t enter.
“They brought so many cases so fast that they bit off way more than they can chew,” said Pierce. “The charging decisions are kind of all over the place, the pretrial release conditions are all over the place.”
Pierce also criticized the government’s “massive degree of selective prosecution,” noting the absence of prosecutions against BLM rioters.
He said many defendants are beginning to take plea deals but stressed the importance of going to trial.
“It’s very important that a lot of these folks … are of the mindset that, you know what, this isn’t right. It’s not right what is happening,” he said. Some clients might decide to say: “I’m going to trial because I didn’t do anything wrong and if nobody stands up to it we’re all kind of screwed.”
That day and the aftermath
The events of January 6 were much bigger than former President Donald Trump or the 2020 election. It was about taking a stand for the country before it’s too late, Rosemarie said.
Rosemarie believes that there were agitators in attendance on January 6 who wanted to “paint a different picture” about what was happening.
“I can tell you from firsthand experience that most of those who were in attendance were there for no other purpose than to glorify God,” she said. “The most profound part of the whole event was the prayer.”
Rosemarie has gotten to know the relatives of other January 6 defendants throughout the process. She said they pray together every night “for the political prisoners of January 6.”
“Many, many, many of these family members, their loved ones are in prison. Their loved ones are in solitary confinement.”
Her son, Isaac, has been particularly “traumatized by 2020,” she said. He graduated last year but “didn’t have a graduation ceremony” or party. Like most students across the state, he was cut off from his friends and deprived of social interaction under Minnesota’s COVID-19 lockdowns.
“This guy has been very depressed. Now we’re going to dump this on top of it,” said Rosemarie.
Pierce said the conversation around January 6 has been framed by the media with “classic propaganda techniques.”
“Insurrection is an actual crime under the federal statutory framework. There are no charges for insurrection. None,” he said, yet much of America believes January 6 was just that — an insurrection.
He said true liberals should take a stand for the presumption of innocence, freedom of speech, the right to a speedy trial, and against government overreach.
Rosemarie concluded by urging men and women in the FBI who “believe in America” to “pick a side.”
“Many families have been accosted by this government that was sworn to protect them. It’s using intimidation and military tactics on its own citizens, and non-violent American citizens. So if they can do this to peaceful, law-abiding American citizens, they’ll have no problem coming for anyone,” she said. “Get on your knees and pray for this nation before it’s too late.”
Many January 6 defendants have no money and are being represented by “public pretenders,” as Rosemarie called them, who hate the people they are tasked with representing. The Westburys were fortunate enough to secure the representation of Pierce and have started a GiveSendGo to help with their legal costs.