Together with her husband, a woman who spouted COVID-19 and election conspiracy theories on Facebook pleaded guilty on Monday to federal charges tied to the Jan. 6th siege of the Capitol. Their misdemeanor plea opens Virginia couple Jessica Bustle and Joshua Bustle up to a possible maximum six-month sentence for parading, demonstrating or picketing inside a Capitol building.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan entered the plea following a brief hearing on Monday afternoon. He said each of the Bustles must pay $500 in restitution for damages to the Capitol during the riot, a standard condition imposed by prosecutors as part of a reported cost-splitting arrangement for hundreds of participants in the siege. Their sentencing will be set at a later date.
The Bustles were in the building for roughly 20 minutes, Hogan said.
When the Bustles were charged in March, the FBI quoted the wife echoing several false beliefs popular in pro-Trump quarters of the internet. Her Facebook posts show the wife contending that Pence had the power to stop the constitutionally mandated process for confirming a U.S. president, COVID-19 vaccines are part of a government depopulation plot, and that anti-fascist activists were responsible for the violence on Jan. 6th.
“Pence is a traitor,” one of the wife’s posts read. “We stormed the capital [sic]. An unarmed peaceful woman down the hall from us was shot in neck by cops. It’s insane here. We’re safe and heading home but have limited service.”
The criminal complaint against the Bustles focuses extensively on the wife’s Facebook posts, largely devoted to coronavirus and election misinformation.
Both worlds collided on Jan. 6th, when one of the Facebook posts showed a picture of the Bustles with the wife holding a placard stating: “MANDATORY MEDICAL PROCEDURES have NO PLACE in a FREE Society.” Coronavirus vaccines are not government-mandated in the United States, even though the Supreme Court ruled more than a century ago that vaccine mandates are legal.
Judge Hogan said that Josh Bustle held a similar sign.
For Jessica Bustle, whose Facebook posts also including skepticism that the moon landing occurred, the real “misinformation” about the siege on the Capitol came from established news organizations.
The amount of misinformation I’m seeing is insane. Despite what you’re being fed, the rally was nothing like what the media is portraying. My husband and I spent the majority of our time at the Health Freedom Rally which was a couple of blocks over from the Trump Rally. When we finally decided to head over to the capitol we were let in . . . like literally, my husband and I just WALKED right in with tons of other people. The cops were nice . . . we were talking with them INSIDE of the capitol about not taking the CV tax and they agreed with us. There were no guns, weapons, and no violence. In fact, when we finally decided to go in after about 45min of it being wide open . . . there was a wooden podium UNTOUCHED just sitting there in the middle of trump supporters supposedly causing so much damage and mayhem. Yes, some Trump supporters were supposedly unruly . . . pushed past police to take selfies in congress seats.
Judge Hogan read some of those statements during the hearing. Jessica Bustle’s depiction of the pro-Trump mob has been debunked by court papers in hundreds of criminal cases. More than 130 members of the pro-Trump mob have been charged with assaulting or resisting police officers. Court papers show accused rioters allegedly attacking Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department Officers with chemical spray, a PVC pole, a flagpole, a Taser, metal barricades and other weapons. One rioter stands accused of stealing an officer’s badge and burying it in his backyard.
Two accused rioters have been charged in connection with the spraying of late Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day. Neither of the alleged assailants have been accused of responsibility for Sicknick’s death.
(Photos from the FBI’s affidavit against the Bustles)
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