An upstate New York man pleaded guilty on Thursday to illegally entering and remaining inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, admitting in court that the spliff he appeared to be smoking inside a senator’s office was indeed a marijuana cigarette.
The case of James Bonet, 29, puts a different spin on the joint session of the U.S. Congress that he and other members of the pro-Trump mob disrupted during the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.
When prosecutors first charged him on Jan. 25 this year, the FBI hedged in stating Bonet posted a selfie on social media showing him smoking “what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Jane Loeb eliminated all doubt in confirming that’s what it was—and that he lit it up inside the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon.
“Did it happen that way, Mr. Bonet?” asked Senior U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, referring to the prosecution’s recitation of his admissions.
“Yes, it did,” Bonet answered, matter-of-factly.
Not accused of perpetrating any violence, Bonet pleaded down from a six-count superseding indictment to a single charge: entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. The misdemeanor count carries a maximum six-month sentence.
Investigators say they found the still frame of Bonet lighting up from a Facebook video, which he posted under the caption “Smoking at the capital building” [sic].
“What appears to be a cell phone camera is facing Bonet in a ‘selfie’ style,” the FBI said in their affidavit. “In the video, Bonet says ‘Capitol building smoking with all my people!’ and then pans the camera to show several other individuals standing around Bonet.”
Bonet was not the only Jan. 6 defendant prosecutors say consumed cannabis inside Congress.
Ronald Sandlin, quoted talking about guns and violence in an alarming superseding indictment last month, was also seen smoking a joint inside the building.
Like numerous other Jan. 6 defendants, Bonet blew his cover through his own social media trial. The FBI affidavit supporting his criminal charges quotes him liberally from his Facebook videos.
“Another video from that screen recording is titled ‘Made it in,'” the FBI said. “Based off the time stamps of the posts, it appears that this video was posted before the two videos seen above. Bonet can be heard saying ‘We made it in the building bitches! We’re taking it back! We are taking it back, we made it in the building!’ Bonet then walks up a small flight of stairs toward a door to the Capitol alongside other unauthorized individuals.”
Some eight months since Jan. 6, the U.S. Attorney’s office for D.C. estimates more than 600 people have been arrested in nearly all 50 states. The sheer enormity of the case load appears to have confused Judge Sullivan, who mistakenly addressed Bonet by the wrong name during the recitation of his plea.
“There are so many of these cases,” Sullivan exclaimed when the prosecutor alerted him of the error.
Apologizing to Bonet, Sullivan clarified the record by repeating the plea and addressing him by the correct name.
(Images via FBI affidavit)
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