By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Sanford man has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge resulting from his arrest in Washington, D.C. following the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Jere Dement Brower of Sanford was arrested along with several others on the Capitol grounds at 7:20 p.m. that evening for violating a curfew that had been imposed for 6 p.m. A statement from an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia said that the group had been warned three times to leave the Capitol campus or face arrest.
After being taken to a police station to be arraigned, Brower asserted his Constitutional right to request a trial by jury. The case moved at a snail’s pace through the judicial system until April 24, when he changed his plea to guilty to the charge of unlawful entry to public property.
The charge is a misdemeanor, for which Brower could receive a monetary fine, probation, imprisonment for up to a year, or potentially other sanctions.
Court documents indicate that Brower and another man, David Ross, entered the Capitol grounds much earlier than they told officers. Photographs obtained by police during a search of Brower’s cell phone apparently showed several images of him on the National Mall and on the slope that leads to the west entrances of the Capitol around the time that protestors overwhelmed police and breached the building.
Brower, Ross, and five others were warned by a police bullhorn three times to get off the Capitol grounds on January 6, starting at 7:17 p.m. When they refused to move, officers moved in, and the group was taken into custody in the 100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
The sheer number of cases that resulted from the insurrection has slowed the federal judicial system to a crawl in many areas of the country. More than 1,000 who were present in the mob and who were observed breaking the law have been charged with federal crimes as a result of their actions. At least 500 of them have either entered guilty pleas or been found guilty.
Brower claimed he was not at the Capitol complex when the riot began early that afternoon. But in a document filed with the court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Wang, a number of photographs found on his own cell phone show him on the slope of Capitol Hill in the immediate area where the fighting broke out.
Brower was able to participate remotely in pre-trial meetings through video conferencing software over the past two years but is required to be back in D.C. on July 21 to appear before Judge Erik Christian for sentencing.
At least 25 North Carolina residents have been charged so far in the case. That number includes two other men from Lee County who were also charged as a result of their participation in the events of that day.
One, Lance Grames, was also charged with a curfew violation along with Brower, but agreed to perform community service work through a deferred prosecution agreement and the government dropped charges against him after he fulfilled his obligations. Grames was killed on November 12 when he was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of North Horner Boulevard and Carthage Street in a hit-and-run incident.
The stakes are much higher, though, for David Joseph Gietzen of Sanford, whose case also seems to be heading to a conclusion. Gietzen is charged with eight counts of violating federal law, two of which are felonies.
The January 6 attack is almost certainly the most photographed crime in history, and the FBI took more than a year to pore over the 6,000 or so videos and hundreds of thousands of still photographs to build cases that show where each defendant was, what they did, and who they were with.
Gietzen was identified in nearly two dozen photographs by people who saw his image on the FBI’s website. An affidavit filed by the arresting agent said some of the images show Gietzen trying to intimidate officers by yelling directly into their faces, attempting, along with others, to push those officers out of the way, and assaulting them with his hands and a long pole. It is believed the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Gietzen’s attorneys have been holding meetings in recent months in hopes of reaching a plea-bargain to avoid a trial.