In an attempt to secure the release of Emerson Begolly, the 21-year-old Nazi-dressing alleged jihad enthusiast who allegedly bit two FBI agents, his defense lawyer alleged in court documents Wednesday that one of the agents had a romantic relationship with the suspect’s estranged, alcoholic mother.
But Special Agent William J. Crowley of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office told TPM that the bureau “categorically denies” any romantic relationship between Special Agent Bradley Orsini and Begolly’s mother Joan Kowalski.
In fact, he says, the only time they met was when Orsini’s girlfriend introduced them at a high school football game two years ago, Crowley said. “That is the extent of any ‘relationship’ between Agent Orsini and the defendant’s mother,” he said.
An FBI supervisor said in court last week that Orsini was chosen specifically because he had a prior relationship with the family, though he said Orsini had never met Begolly himself.
The federal judge who ordered Begolly detained today didn’t think any of this back and forth mattered when he overruled a lower court’s ruling that Begolly could be sent to a halfway house. Federal prosecutors argued in their appeal that Begolly was a danger to the community, presenting as evidence extremist poems he allegedly posted online and the fact that he carried an AK-47 around his father’s farm. Federal prosecutors entered additional evidence seized from Begolly’s computer at the detention hearing on Thursday.
It was Begolly’s mother Kowalski who lured the suspect into her car under the pretense that his grandmother was dying and took him to the Burger King parking lot where he was approached by FBI agents who wanted to question him about alleged extremist postings he made online.
Begolly’s federal public defender Markéta Sims argued that he’s not a danger to the community because he is dependent on his father. Sims argued in a court filing this week that Begolly’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) could explain his reaction when two FBI agents “stealthily approached the vehicle wearing plain clothes, and suddenly threw open both front and rear passenger doors, surprising and startling Mr. Begolly.”
“Accordingly, the decision to sneak up on Mr. Begolly and scare him had predictable results,” Sims wrote. “Specifically, he was startled and frightened, and screamed out. The Agents responded by jumping into the car with him and dragging him out of the car to the ground.”
Sims also wrote that there was no evidence that Begolly bit the agents because there were no photographs of the wounds entered into the record and because Orsini had been previously found by the FBI to have lied under oath. She also wrote that besides the misdemeanor of allegedly carrying a firearm without being licensed (which he allegedly tried to pull on the two agents) the government failed to point to any other firearms offense committed by Begolly.
Sims said, however, that there was “no evidence that Mr. Begolly suffers from a major mental illness, and defense counsel has observed nothing to indicate same.”
Late Update: The government just entered new evidence they unveiled in the case into the record. Included was the photo at the top of this post and the photo displayed below. We’ll have more on the new evidence tomorrow.