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,” refused to plead guilty Wednesday to a criminal charge over the US Capitol riots. .

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused an admission of guilt from Anthime Gionet. to accept after he confessed his innocence at the start of what was scheduled to be a hearing on a plea deal. Instead, the judge set a March 2023 trial date 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 crime 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 only went to the Capitol as journalists to document what happened on January 6. Infowars host Jonathan Owen Shroyer has asked a judge to drop his riot charges, accusing prosecutors of his rights under the First Amendment to protest, speak out and report 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 banned him permanently from his platform after the Charlottesville rally.

In January, Gionet was sentenced to 30 days in prison for felony convictions arising from a December 2020 meeting in which authorities say he shot 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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