A defendant who was photographed dangling from the U.S. Senate balcony and sitting in a chair he assumed was occupied by Nancy Pelosi — it was really Mike Pence‘s chair — during the Jan. 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty on Wednesday afternoon to a single count of obstruction. That is but one of several charges federal prosecutors initially lodged against Josiah Colt, 34, who was arrested in Idaho after the breach. Prosecutors agreed to wipe away the other charges in return for the plea, and Colt promised to cooperate in federal investigations against other defendants.
Senior United States District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, a Ronald Reagan appointee to the federal bench who also served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, accepted the plea during a nearly one-hour hearing which included a lengthy recitation of the usual legal form documents which accompany guilty pleas.
“You’re pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty,” Judge Hogan reminded the defendant while examining the signature block of the plea agreement document. “It’s essential that you admit guilt” to the elements of the offense, Hogan said, if the defendant wants the court to accept the plea deal.
After reading charging documents back to Colt and reciting the core factual allegations in the case, Colt quibbled with a Facebook post which both federal agents and news reporters identified shortly after the Jan. 6th siege. The post was embedded in a federal search warrant application aimed at Facebook.
Colt said he “didn’t know about” the “post on Facebook talking about the Boogaloo” — and then attempted to argue that it “was taken out of context” by those who have tried to use it against him.
“The picture posted was actually a joke” — “a funny joke” with “two meanings,” Colt said. “I just felt like that whole post was kind of a joke. Taken out of context, it looks worse than it is.”
“‘Boogaloo’ is slang for violent insurrection or civil war,” the Idaho Press reported back on Jan. 7th while examining the post.
“There was an emoji next to it, like a smiley face emoji,” Colt explained to the judge — who some other observers noted is 83 years old.
Prosecutors jumped in and said the charging document was sufficient to make out the obstruction case.
Judge Hogan was careful to make sure Colt really wanted to end the case with a plea — or whether he wanted to further fight the accusations.
Colt ultimately acquiesced.
“Yes, your honor,” the defendant finally said when the judge asked him if he wished to, in fact, plead guilty.
The defendant was indicted on a litany of charges: obstruction; aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; and violent entry and disorderly conduct in a capitol building. The plea deal wiped away all but the first count contained in a Jan. 8th indictment.
Hogan said it is likely Colt will be likely be sentenced to somewhere between 51 and 63 months in prison — 4.25 to 5.25 years — even though the obstruction count to which Colt accepted guilt could have resulted in a 20-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.
According to an FBI officer’s statement of facts on file in the case:
I estimate that between 2:00 p.m., and no later than 4:00 p.m., the defendant, Josiah Colt, entered the United States Capitol without authorization to do so. He was photographed hanging off a balcony and landing on the floor of the Senate chambers.
In a video posted to Facebook and circulated widely on other social media platforms, the defendant claims he was the first person to sit in the House Speaker’s chair and calls House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a traitor. The defendant appears to be mistaken as he was also photographed in the seat reserved for the vice president, and not Speaker Pelosi.
The statement of facts also says Colt admitted his involvement in the Jan. 6th breach to an Idaho television station.
“I love America, I love the people,” Colt told Boise CBS affiliate KBOI-TV, according to court papers. “I didn’t hurt anyone and I didn’t cause any damage in the Chamber. I got caught up in the moment and when I saw the door to to [sic] the Chamber open, I walked in, hopped down, and sat on the chair. I said my peace [sic] then I helped a gentlemen get to safety that was injured then left.”
A relative contacted by the FBI helped identify Colt, the court documents explain.
KBOI’s website contains further statements from Colt that do not appear in the court record.
Colt told the television station that he warned “other protesters” that the senate chamber was a “sacred place and not to do any damage.”
“Some of them wanted to trash the place and steal stuff,” Colt reportedly said, “but I told them not to and to leave everything in it’s [sic] place.”
Colt also told the television station his “intention wasn’t to put a stain on our great Country’s Democratic process” and that he wanted to “sincerely apologize to the American people” — and to “beg for forgiveness.”
A presentence report is next for Colt. Prosecutors suggested that Colt’s ongoing “cooperation” in other cases warranted a status update in 90 days rather than a sentencing date set on the calendar. The judge characterized the government’s request as “for your benefit” when suggesting to the defendant it would be wise for him to hold off on sentencing.
More than five hundred people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6th breach.
[photo via Win McNamee/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]