WASHINGTON — Two Virginia residents arrested at the front of the crowd inside the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in the case Tuesday afternoon.
Cindy Fitchett, 60, of Cobbs Creek, Virginia, and Douglas Sweet, 59, of Mathews, Virginia, were arrested with four other defendants accused of entering the Capitol as part of a pro-Trump mob while a joint session of Congress was meeting to certify Electoral College votes. Fitchett, Sweet and their co-defendants were each charged with four counts, including entering a restricted building and violent and disorderly conduct.
On Tuesday, Fitchett and Sweet appeared before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols to enter guilty pleas to one misdemeanor count each of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building – a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of up to 6 months in prison.
According to the Justice Department, Fitchett and Sweet are friends who traveled to D.C. together on January 6 to support former President Donald Trump. After his rally, the pair entered the Capitol building, during which time Fitchett recorded a video of them in which she said, “We are storming the Capitol. We have broken in. Patriots arrive!”
The DOJ said there was no evidence either Fitchett or Sweet committed violence on January 6, and that both cooperated with the FBI, including allowing searches of their cell phones, once contacted by investigators.
Government attorneys said Tuesday they had extended a plea offer to a third defendant in the case, Terry Brown, and that a fourth defendant, Bradley Rukstales, had accepted an agreement. A date for Rukstales' plea hearing had not yet been set as of Tuesday afternoon.
Fitchett and Sweet weren’t the first defendants in the case to accept pleas. In July, another co-defendant, Michael Curzio, of Florida, entered a plea of guilty on one misdemeanor count and was sentenced to 6 months in prison. Because he had remained in custody since his arrest in January, that was effectively a sentence of time served. Despite facing no felony charges, Curzio had been repeatedly denied bond – in large part due to his criminal history and his affiliation with a violent prison gang. In memoranda opposing his release, the Justice Department said Curzio’s participation in the Capitol riot came just two years after he was released from an eight-year prison sentence in Florida for attempted murder.
“Less than two years after his release for that serious, violent offense, he committed the current offenses, illustrating that his significant term of imprisonment did not chasten him from committing further criminal conduct,” prosecutors argued in an April court filing.
Another co-defendant in the case, Thomas Gallagher, also pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count in July. His sentencing hearing was scheduled for October 13.
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