With this latest wave of court activity, 10% of the more than 600 known federal defendants indicted in the deadly riot have pleaded guilty, according to the latest CNN tally. The most notable defendant to finalize a guilty plea was Cleveland Meredith Jr., who drove from Georgia to Washington, DC, with two guns and 2,500 rounds. He missed former President Donald Trump’s speech at a rally on Jan.6, but texted a relative a day later to tell him he was considering attending an event with Pelosi and “put a bullet in his noggin on live television”.
He has pleaded guilty to sending threatening communications and faces a potential jail term of up to five years, although prosecutors told the judge they would only ask for two years. Meredith has been in jail since his arrest in January and will get credit for the time he served when sentenced in December.
The pace of guilty pleas has picked up in recent weeks, as the Justice Department attempts to resolve dozens of lower-level cases involving defendants of non-violent riots, including a married couple from Ohio.
Most of the 61 guilty pleas to date have been for minor offenses. But several people have pleaded guilty to crimes that could lead to prison terms of several years, such as conspiring with extremist groups, assaulting police, or obstructing congressional proceedings.
Past and future threats
At Meredith’s plea hearing, he told the judge that the vulgar and sexist messages he sent about the Pelosi shooting were “political hyperbole,” before finally admitting: “I have sent the text “.
He had planned to attend Trump’s rally on Jan.6, but due to car problems he arrived in Washington after the insurgency. He admitted to bringing 2,500 rounds, an assault rifle and another weapon bearing an American flag in his truck trailer. But as part of his plea deal, he was not required to plead guilty to the weapons charges that were originally laid.
In a separate plea hearing Friday, a federal judge reminded another defendant that he was prohibited from returning to Washington for a rally scheduled for September 18 in support of the January 6 rioters.
“You are not allowed to attend this demonstration, do you understand? US District Judge Rudolph Contreras told defendant Felipe Marquez, who, like most of those accused of the Capitol riots, had previously been ordered to stay out of DC while his criminal case progressed through the system. judicial.
Marquez has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, which is a misdemeanor. He could face up to a year in prison, although most nonviolent rioters received lighter sentences.
Few would expect the September 18 demonstration to be the size of the massive pro-Trump rally on January 6 that preceded the insurgency, which drew at least 25,000 people. But law enforcement officials are bracing for potential clashes and unrest, and U.S. Capitol Police have asked their supervisory board to approve plans to temporarily relocate fences around the complex.
Last minute antics
A married couple in rural Ohio also pleaded guilty to demonstrating illegally on Capitol Hill on Friday, a trespass-like offense to which many non-violent rioters have already pleaded guilty.
After the attack, Stephanie Miller and Brandon Miller falsely claimed on Facebook that the day “was peaceful” and that “the media” distorted what had happened, according to court documents.
Their plea hearing nearly derailed when the couple waived a few provisions of the deal their lawyers had negotiated with the Justice Department. Brandon Miller said he was not told he would need to interview investigators about the riot. And Stephanie Miller said she didn’t know prosecutors could look at her phone and social media accounts.
After a brief discussion with their attorneys, the Millers both advanced their guilty pleas. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan accepted their pleas and set the sentence for December 1.
They aren’t the only rioters on Capitol Hill who raised last-minute objections during their plea hearings. CNN previously reported that several defendants continued to promote selfish accounts that police allegedly invited them to Capitol Hill, even as they attempted to plead guilty.
More guilty pleas are expected in the coming weeks. So far, only six rioters have been convicted, but more sentencing hearings are dotted throughout 2021.
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