WASHINGTON (CN) — Two U.S. Marine Corps veterans from Texas – one of whom claimed on a video that they “crashed the White House” – pleaded guilty to their participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on Wednesday.
Jeffrey Witcher pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor count of entering a restricted building while Richard Barnard pleaded guilty to a Class B misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building — both common plea deals that prosecutors have been handing out to low-level nonviolent Jan. 6 defendants.
The restricted building charge carries up to one year in prison, and the unlawful picketing charge holds up to six months in prison — though both Witcher and Barnard are likely to receive far less time, and may avoid prison altogether.
“I am in the White House! We crashed this. Our house! We did it, family, we did it! WE did it! We’re in the White House!” Witcher said in a video that the FBI retrieved from his phone.
Witcher is not the first rioter who mistook the U.S. Capitol for the White House. Kenneth Kelly, an emergency medicine doctor from Florida, texted his friends, “Patriots stormed the White House!” and “Inside the White House via breaking in windows,” while inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Douglas Austin Jensen, a man who had to return to jail after he broke his pretrial release conditions by watching conspiracy videos in his garage, said, “This is me, touching the fucking White House,” in a recently released video from Jan. 6.
Witcher clarified in an interview with FBI agents that he was so “emotional and invested” in the moment, he temporarily forgot which building he was in. In his second video, he corrected himself. “We’re in the rotunda. We’re in the rotunda. Our house! Our house!”
He also yelled at a law enforcement officer, “Hey man, don’t forget your constitutional duties. Don’t forget your oath, brother. Don’t forget your oath! Do not forget your oath! You are us! You are us! You are us!”
When someone threw a fire extinguisher at the police officers, Witcher can be heard in the video shouting, “Don’t do that! No, no! No! These are not our enemies. No, don’t do it.”
Both Witcher and Barnard agreed to be interviewed by FBI agents. During Witcher’s interview, he said that he took part in the failed insurrection because he believed that free speech is being censored all across the nation, and that most of America is “tone deaf to discussion.” He hoped that the protest would be peaceful and help facilitate discussion.
Barnard told agents that it still felt good to have been at the Capitol and that it was a good experience up until the moment he entered the building. Both men allowed investigators to examine their cellphones and recover the evidence that they had deleted.
“I’m a man of accountability, and I need to be accountable,” Witcher told U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras at his hearing on Wednesday. “I did enter the Capitol.”
Witcher and Barnard are the 105th and 106th Jan. 6 defendants to accept guilty pleas.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.