WASHINGTON (CN) — Getting the more serious charges against him dropped in the process, a 21-year-old member of the Proud Boys who called for a civil war days after rioting at the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty on Tuesday to entering and remaining in a restricted area.
Ryan Ashlock struck a plea deal with the Justice Department in which he admitted guilt to a misdemeanor charge that carries a statutory sentence of up to one year in prison. The move allows him to skirt the decades behind bars that come with convictions for the felonies — including conspiracy and obstruction — that he faced for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
The Johnson County, Missouri, resident is among four members of the Proud Boys chapter in Kansas who were indicted together on Feb. 26, 2021. According to court filings, Ashlock was not on the FBI’s radar until about a month after the insurrection when agents came to arrest three of his co-defendants, one of whom identified Ashlock “verbally and from photographs … as an additional subject” who was with them on Jan. 6.
While being processed, the unidentified co-defendant is said to have told FBI agents that Ashlock agreed to drive with them from the Kansas City metropolitan area to Washington for events on Jan. 6 , and that they stayed together in a short-term rental property before and after the insurrection. The tip led to Ashlock’s arrest about two weeks later, and he spent four days in jail before being released to home detention with GPS monitoring.
In his plea agreement, Ashlock admitted that plans began to take shape some time around December 2020 for he and his friends to travel to Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was set to certify the results of the election, to show support for the losing Republican President Donald Trump and protest against the vote-tallying ceremony.
Ashlock said members messaged each other about concealing identities and bringing two-way radios, medical supplies and weapons to the nation’s capital.
In one exchange, someone said, “We will be headed back on the 7th, either to prepare for war or celebrate a Trump victory,” to which Ashlock replied, “Yep. Best part is demorat [sic] cities and states will turn into 4th world shit holes.”
Planning among the members of the right-wing extremist group also included talks of “engaging in violence with 'Antifa' and Black Lives Matters supporters,” Ashlock divulged.
Come Jan. 6, the so-called “first-degree” member of the Kansas City Proud Boys said that he was part of a larger Proud Boys meet-up at the Washington Monument.
After the meeting, Ashlock said the Proud Boys began marching toward the Capitol, and he was in a group led by Ethan Nordean and Dominic Pezzola, who are described as “organizers” of the Proud Boys and are among 16 high-level Capitol riot defendants charged with seditious conspiracy.
After marching down the street yelling things like, “Whose streets? Our streets,” Ashlock said he joined others in a crowd outside the Capitol and forced his way through police lines and barriers.
“Defendant, who was equipped with body armor, goggles, a filtered breathing mask, and a chemical irritant spray, proceeded over the toppled barricades and moved towards the Capitol’s West Plaza where he attempted to prevent officers from using force against others in the crowd,” according to his plea agreement.
Screenshots from the U.S. Capitol Police appear to show Ashlock’s hand on a police barricade separating him from a line of officers with helmets and riot shields who were trying to protect the Capitol.
While his five co-defendants are accused of physically breaching the Capitol building, interrupting the acts of Congress, the Justice Department said it “has no information” that Ashlock went inside the building.
As Ashlock tells it, he eventually separated from his co-defendants and left the Capitol grounds after being hit with pepper spray.
A "close” family member messaged Ashlock as he was leaving, warning him to get "away from the building."
He responded, "F[xxx] all these p[xxx]y liar politicians. Trump should have them all executed."
Four days after the Capitol siege, Ashlock admitted that he sent violent rhetoric in a message to friends on Jan. 10.
"America needs a civil war. The government can't win one and the rest of the world goes into chaos with us," he wrote.
Ashlock is scheduled to be sentenced on November 10 by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee.
The five others charged alongside Ashlock include three known Proud Boys members: William Chrestman, 47, of Johnson County, Kansas; Christopher Kuehne, 47, of Johnson County, Kansas, and Louis Enrique Colon, 44, of Jackson County, Missouri, and two nonmembers, Felicia Konold, 27, of Pima County, Arizona, and Cory Konold, 25, of Pima County, Arizona.
The Justice Department has charged more than 840 people so far in connection with the attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
As of June 6, about 246 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, 59 have pleaded guilty to felonies, and at least 80 people have been sentenced to incarceration.
The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, nor did Ashlock’s attorney, Michael Lawlor.
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