Internet troll faces trial after Capitol riot plea fails

A federal judge scheduled a trial next year against a far-right internet troll after the man, known to his social media followers as “Baked Alaska,” declined to plead Wednesday on a criminal charge over the US Capitol riots. .

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused to accept an admission of guilt from Anthime Gionet after he confessed his innocence at the start of what would become a plea deal hearing. Instead, the judge set a trial date in March 2023 for Gionet, who is charged with a felony of parading, demonstrating, or picketing inside a Capitol building.

“If he wants a trial, he’ll get a fair trial,” Sullivan said.

After personal consultations with Gionet’s lawyers, Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said prosecutors would leave the plea open for 60 days. The judge has scheduled a status hearing for the case on July 22.

Gionet would have received a maximum sentence of six months in prison if he pleaded guilty to the crime.

During the riots on January 6, 2021, Gionet streamed live video showing himself inside the Capitol and repeatedly encouraging other rioters to stay there. He joined others as he chanted “Patriots are in control” and “Whose house? Our house!” Before leaving, he profanely called a police officer an “oath-breaker,” the FBI said.

Gionet told the judge he wanted a trial, but claimed prosecutors had threatened to “beat” him with an additional felony charge.

“So I think this is probably the better route,” he added.

“Are you guilty because you are guilty?” asked Sullivan.

“I believe I am innocent, Your Honor,” Gionet replied.

“I can’t accept your plea if you tell me you’re innocent,” the judge said.

Aloi said prosecutors never threatened to charge Gionet with a felony if he didn’t pass the plea deal.

“We did say that the matter would be further investigated and that the facts leading up to it would eventually guide the charges,” she said.

“I accept that representation,” the judge said. “Your office has been conducted in a most honorable manner.”

Gionet’s attorney has claimed that he went to Washington, DC only to document what happened that day. Prosecutors disputed Gionet’s claim that he is a member of the news media.

Other rioters have argued that they went to the Capitol only as journalists to document what happened on Jan. 6. Infowars host Jonathan Owen Shroyer has asked a judge to drop his riot charges, accusing prosecutors of violating his First Amendment rights. protest, speak out and bring the news.”

Federal authorities have used Gionet’s video to prosecute other rioters, including three men from New York City. Antonio Ferrigno, Francis Connor and Anton Lunyk pleaded guilty to riot-related charges on April 28. Gionet’s livestream showed them in Senator Jeff Merkley’s office, according to court records accompanying their plea deals.

Gionet was arrested in Houston less than two weeks after the riots. He has moved from Arizona to Florida since his arrest.

Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, Gionet used social media to build a following in far-right political circles. He became known for posting videos in which he tries to troll or joke about his goals.

BuzzFeed, where Gionet once worked, reported that Twitter had permanently banned him from its platform after the Charlottesville rally.

In January, Gionet was sentenced to 30 days in prison on felony convictions following a December 2020 encounter in which authorities say he fired pepper spray at an employee at a bar in Scottsdale, Arizona.

More than 790 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riots. More than 280 of them have pleaded guilty, mainly to crimes, and more than 170 have been convicted. About 100 others have trial dates.

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