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The former State Department official accused of brawling with Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 riot had a number of previous run-ins with the law—including a 2013 assault charge.
Less than four years before he joined the State Department as a Trump administration political appointee, Federico “Freddie” Klein allegedly assaulted a woman, stealing two items from her car after wrestling her out of the way during an altercation.
According to charging documents obtained by VICE News from the Baltimore County circuit court, a woman named Carol Anderson who volunteered with the anti-abortion group American Life League told police that she had an argument with Klein on July 25, 2013, that turned physical.
Anderson suggests that she and Klein met through the pro-life organization and had a disagreement that stretched over three days. Things came to a head, she said, when Klein forcefully reached into her car and rooted around for a three-ring binder as she unsuccessfully tried to fend him off from the driver’s seat. She said she was in a neck brace, and he physically overcame her, forcing her arm to the side to reach the binder under some PVC piping she used for protest signs.
Klein started to walk away, Anderson told police, but when she demanded that he give back her binder, he ran back to her car and laughingly said, “Umm, I think I’ll take this, too,” then reached in and, to taunt her, stole a mask she wore during the protests. He then hopped into the car of another pro-life protester she claimed had previously threatened her to stay away from a protest.
Klein was initially charged with second-degree assault, robbery, and theft under $1,000. The charges were reduced to second-degree assault and theft under $100 in 2014, and then the case was basically put on ice. It was classified as “stet,” which attorneys say is essentially an agreement between the prosecution and defense to put the trial on indefinite hold, and often used as a way to avoid trying it unless the defendant winds up in further legal trouble.
It’s unclear exactly how and why the case wound up with this standing. Anderson couldn’t be reached. Matt Paavola, Klein’s attorney on the 2013 case, relayed a message that he wasn’t willing to discuss the case. Klein’s current attorney, Stanley Woodward, told VICE News “We have no comment” on the 2013 case when reached by phone, and Klein is currently behind bars and can’t be reached directly.
Klein’s social media posts suggest he was indeed an anti-abortion activist. As the New York Times reported, Klein’s Facebook page included many religious and anti-abortion posts.
The case isn’t Klein’s only run-in with the cops before he allegedly decided to attack them during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, though the other charges are pretty low-stakes by comparison to his half-hour assault on the Capitol.
A man alleged to be Klein was filmed on Jan. 6 using a police shield to repeatedly attack officers and was caught on tape trying to rally rioters to the front line to continue the assault on the police line. Prosecutors say he ignored police orders and only ended his assault when he was physically subdued by pepper spray. On Tuesday, a judge ruled that Klein had to remain behind bars, saying that Klein "switched sides” and helped violent rioters to strike "directly at the heart of our democracy.”
Klein was charged with public drunkenness in mid-2013, and had a half-dozen minor charges in separate incidents from 1997 to 2003, before he entered the military, that included driving while intoxicated, marijuana possession, and underage drinking.
Federal prosecutors noted Klein’s past record during his Tuesday hearing, mentioning a handful of arrests and a prior conviction, but they didn’t dwell on it as they made their case that he shouldn’t be allowed out on bail. In their detention memo laying out why Klein should be kept in jail, the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote that his “criminal record is limited.”
That’s a fair description in an argument for why someone should be kept in jail while awaiting trial. But Klein had a top-secret security clearance that the State Department renewed in 2019, and a recent assault charge should have raised red flags.
“It calls into question how he was able to get a security clearance,” one former colleague of Klein’s at the State Department told VICE News.
Bradley Moss, an attorney who specializes in national security, employment and security clearance law, told VICE News that the reason “why security let this rather considerable criminal history slide” may have been that the charges were mostly old misdemeanors and that some had been dismissed. But the Trump administration was also notorious for pushing through security clearances for political allies who wouldn’t have gotten them under normal circumstances, from Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner on down.
“I have seen clearances denied for far less and so it begs the question we heard repeatedly during the Trump era of whether certain political appointees got special treatment,” Moss said.
The State Department declined to comment on how Klein got his clearance, beyond confirming his past employment, first on the presidential transition team then as a special assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
“Unfortunately, there’s not much we can share on these cases given the sensitivity of the information and the privacy considerations. There’s also an active court case when it comes to this individual,” Ned Price, the new Biden-appointed State Department spokesman, told VICE News in an email.
Jesse Seidman contributed to this report.