A January 6 rioter who represented himself using “sovereign citizen” arguments – which a judge called “bullshit” and “gobbledegook” – was found guilty on Tuesday.
Taylor James Johnatakis, 39 and from Kingston, Washington, will be sentenced later.
On 6 January 2021, Donald Trump sent supporters to Congress to try to stop certification of his defeat by Joe Biden, telling them to “fight like hell” in his cause.
According to the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Johnatakis “came to the Capitol with a megaphone strapped to his back [and] joined the riot at the base of the south-west staircase when the mob was overwhelming police officers, who were forced to retreat toward the Capitol.
“Johnatakis followed right behind those retreating police officers [and] was one of the first rioters to reach the top of the south-west staircase, where he was confronted with a line of police barricades and police officers protecting the Capitol.
“Johnatakis organised and coordinated other rioters to assault the police line … Specifically, using his megaphone, Johnatakis directed rioters to move up to the police line”, then orchestrated an attack using bike racks …
“As a result of this attack, at least one police officer was injured.”
Johnatakis was arrested in February 2021 and became one of more than 1,200 people charged over the riot. More than 400 have been sentenced to jail, some after being convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Trump was impeached (for a second time) over the riot but acquitted when Senate Republicans stayed loyal. He now faces 13 state and four federal charges over his attempted election subversion, among 91 criminal charges in total, but nonetheless leads Republican primary polling by vast margins.
In court last week, Johnatakis mounted his own defence, attempting to cite “sovereign citizen” ideology. As defined by the Anti-Defamation League, sovereign citizens form “an extreme anti-government movement whose members believe the government has no authority over them”.
Johnatakis also said he had “repented all [his] sins” and the case should be “discharged”, but the judge, Royce C Lamberth, was not buying.
Telling Johnatakis his arguments were “bullshit” and “gobbledegook”, Lamberth said: “When they find you guilty, you’re going to jail. You could get a lesser sentence if you weren’t so hard-headed.”
On Tuesday, the jury found Johnatakis guilty on seven charges, three of them felonies.
The charges were: obstruction of an official proceeding; assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; and an act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or buildings.
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