WASHINGTON (CN) — A New Yorker who made his way into Senator Jeff Merkley’s office to smoke a joint after storming the Capitol building on Jan. 6 accepted a misdemeanor plea deal on Thursday — escaping the heftier sentence he faced from a felony count in the original indictment.
James Bonet, from upstate New York, pleaded guilty to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. The felony originally charged against him — obstructing an official proceeding — carried a maximum of 20 years in prison, but the only rioter to have been sentenced for that charge thus far only received eight months behind bars.
Of the 98 plea deals entered so far, only 15 have been for felony charges, causing both federal judges and the public to wonder if the consequences for participating in the failed insurrection are severe enough to deter a future attack.
“You need to be prepared to explain why probation would be an appropriate deterrent for the outrageous conduct that was demonstrated on Jan. 6,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Bonet’s defense attorney in court Thursday.
Bonet was turned in by three separate individuals, including two of his co-workers, who had screen recorded a video of the Capitol riot that Bonet posted on Facebook titled “Smoking at the Capitol building.” The video showed Bonet smoking a joint with other rioters inside Senator Jeff Merkley’s office, and saying, “Capitol building smoking with all my people!”
According to an FBI affidavit, Bonet’s co-workers said that Bonet openly talks about government conspiracies at work, and tries to convince them to buy into the conspiracies.
His co-workers gave FBI agents another screen recording of a video that Bonet posted, chanting, “Whose house? Our house!,” and another titled “Made it in,” in which Bonet yells, “We made it in the building, bitches! We’re taking it back! We are taking it back, we made it in the building!”
Last week, another weed-smoking Capitol rioter pleaded guilty to their participation in the Capitol riot. Eduardo Nicholas Alvear Gonzalez came to be known as the “Capitol Rotunda Doobie Smoker” after handing out several joints to other rioters, who all stood around smoking in the Rotunda.
Bonet will be sentenced in February.
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