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Congressman Mo Brooks served with lawsuit over role in Capitol assault

Sicknick family still searching for answers
Sicknick family criticizes GOP lawmakers, Trump over January 6 commission opposition 13:01

Washington — Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama was served Sunday with a lawsuit filed against him by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California over his role in the January 6 assault on the Capitol after Swalwell's initial efforts to track Brooks down were unsuccessful.

Brooks on Sunday tweeted that his wife was served the complaint, filed by Swalwell in March, and accused the congressman's "team" of criminally trespassing on his property.

"HORRIBLE Swalwell's team committed a CRIME by unlawfully sneaking INTO MY HOUSE & accosting my wife!" Brooks wrote. "Alabama Code 13A-7-2: 1st degree criminal trespass. Year in jail. $6000 fine."

Clay Mills, Brooks' spokesman, told CBS News that Swalwell's process server entered the congressman's house without his wife Martha Brooks' knowledge or consent, and refused to leave when she demanded it. Mills said there is video proof of the incident and the congressman filed a report with the Huntsville Police Department, though his office does not yet have a copy of the report.

But Philip Andonian, Swalwell's attorney, refuted Brooks' claims and said "no one entered or even attempted to enter the Brooks' house, which is the allegation I understand he is making." 

"We asked Mo Brooks to waive service, which he refused," Andonian told CBS News. "In response to his juvenile Twitter trolling over the past few days, we offered to meet him somewhere to get this done. Instead of working things out like an adult, he continued to evade service and make a mockery of this incredibly serious case seeking to hold him accountable for the siege on the Capitol. He demanded that we serve him, and we did just that. We look forward to litigating our claims against him in court."

Video footage of the incident taken from a security camera outside Brooks' home and shared with CBS News by Brooks' office shows the process server, a man, pulling into the congressman's driveway after a gray SUV drives slowly into what appears to be the garage. The man then jumps out of his vehicle and, carrying papers, runs into the garage after the SUV, out of sight of the camera. 

Roughly 15 seconds later, the man, holding up a cellphone, backtracks and returns to his vehicle. Martha Brooks follows the process server back to his car, walking first to the driver's side and then to its rear, as if she is looking at the license plate. The process server backs out of the driveway, and Martha Brooks is seen walking back into the garage.

Christian Seklecki, the process server, filed an affidavit of service on Tuesday that provided his accounting of the encounter with Martha Brooks. Seklecki told the court he initially tried to make contact with Brooks by knocking on the front door, ringing the intercom and ringing a front-door security device, but there was no answer. 

After waiting near the congressman's house, he said he saw a SUV registered to Brooks pull into the driveway, then followed the vehicle. He then got out of his car and walked to the driver's side door of the SUV, which was parked in the open garage, to serve Martha Brooks with the complaint, according to the affidavit. 

"I extended the papers toward the woman for her to accept and said, 'Mrs. Brooks, I am serving you with legal paperwork. This is for your husband, Mo Brooks,'" Seklecki wrote. "As Martha Brooks exited her car, I asked her if she wanted me to hand her the papers. She did not answer but yelled at me to leave and told me that she is calling the police. I then said, 'OK, I'm putting them on the floor right there.' I then dropped the papers near her feet and reminded her that the papers have been served."

Seklecki said he returned to his car to leave the property but was unable to do so immediately.

"Martha Brooks walked around to the rear of my car, ostensibly to note my license place, and reversing back up the driveway was the only way to leave," he said in the filing. "After approximately five or six seconds, Martha Brooks walked back around my car and towards the direction of her car. The moment I saw she was clear of my intended path off the property, I reversed up the driveway and left the area."

Filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, Swalwell's suit accuses Brooks, former President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump's private attorney, of inciting the violence at the Capitol five months ago. The California Democrat claims the group's actions related to January 6 violated federal civil rights laws and D.C. statute.

While Mr. Trump, Trump Jr. and Giuliani waived service of a summons and copy of the complaint in the litigation, according to the court, Swalwell asked the court last week for an extra 60 days to serve Brooks, citing "his ongoing refusal to waive service and the inherent difficulties of attempting service on a sitting member of Congress." 

Swalwell's attorneys told the court Andonian contacted Brooks' office in Washington to ask if he was willing to waive service, but never received calls back after speaking with two staff members on two different occasions. Andonian also emailed Brooks a formal waiver request and copy of the complaint, but never received a response, according to a copy of the message filed with the court.

Swalwell also asked the court to order that a U.S. marshal or other person appointed by the judge serve the summons "because of the special circumstances here" and said he hired a private investigator to attempt to serve Brooks, which came with its own difficulties due to restricted public access to the Capitol grounds following the January 6 attack.

"Plaintiff's investigator has spent many hours over many days in April and May at locations in multiple jurisdictions attempting to locate and serve Brooks, to no avail," Swalwell told the court. "Plaintiff has borne all costs associated with these efforts."

Brooks, he continued, was aware of the lawsuit filed against him because he took to Twitter to deem it a "meritless ploy."

The Alabama Republican mocked Swalwell's attempts to find him, posting on his Twitter accounts a "Wanted" poster featuring photos from events in Alabama and asserting he has not altered his conduct "one iota" since the suit was filed.

"I have made dozens of publicized public appearances. If Swalwell was sincere about suit service, he could have served me at any of these public events," Brooks tweeted last week, adding he has voted on the House floor many times and could have been served with the lawsuit before or after votes.

District Judge Amit Mehta, who was assigned the case, granted Swalwell's request for more time to serve the complaint on Brooks, but declined to order the U.S. Marshals Service to help, citing "separation of powers concerns."

Mr. Trump, Giuliani and Trump Jr. have asked the court to dismiss Swalwell's case. The former president claimed he has "absolute immunity" from the suit.

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