Jan. 6 Defendant Backs Out of Plea Deal After Judge Acquits Other Accused Rioter

A man charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol backed out of a deal to plead guilty just days after a federal judge declared another defendant not guilty in the first acquittal connected to the attack. 

Shawn Witzemann previously came to a deal to plead guilty to four misdemeanor charges next week, but he changed his mind after U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden granted a full acquittal to another defendant who was charged with entering a restricted building. Facing similar charges, Witzemann told prosecutors on Thursday that he would seek a similar fate.

“He didn’t want to plead guilty to begin with, but he was afraid to trust the judicial system in D.C.,” said Guy Womack, who represents Witzemann, according to NBC

Witzemann was arrested last April on four charges, including entering and remaining in a restricted building, disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Investigators connected Witzemann to the attack after discovering he livestreamed his conduct inside the Capitol building on Facebook, according to court documents. He later admitted to federal officials he was inside the building, noting he often travels to demonstrations to provide live coverage. 

“He was acting as a journalist,” Womack said. 

McFadden earlier this week absolved former federal contractor Matthew Martin of his charges connected to the Jan. 6 riot after his attorneys demonstrated he may have believed he was being waved into the Capitol building by police officers. The decision was the first acquittal in connection to the Jan. 6 riot, setting the stage for other defendants to challenge courts to avoid charges.

More than 775 people have been charged in connection to the Jan. 6 riot, with more than 225 pleading guilty. Martin was only the third to go to trial so far after McFadden found Couy Griffin, the co-founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” guilty on March 17 and a federal grand jury found Guy Wesley Reffitt guilty on three counts just a week earlier. 

Witzemann will appear before Judge Thomas F. Hogan to plead his case and could face jail time if convicted.