A federal judge scolded the January 6th rioter who was photographed carrying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern, calling him “gullible” for believing Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election.
Adam Johnson, a 36-year-old Florida man, pleaded guilty on Monday to entering and remaining in a restricted building. During his plea hearing, Senior District Judge Reggie Walton expressed concern about Johnson’s susceptibility to Trump’s conspiracy theories.
“What concerns me, sir, is that you were gullible enough to come to Washington, DC, from Florida based on a lie,” Walton said, “and the person who inspired you to do what you do is still making those statements, and my concern is that you are gullible enough to do it again.”
“That concerns me, it really does because we are in a troubled situation as a country,” Walton continued, adding “Al Gore had a better case to argue than Mr. Trump and he was a man about what happened to him and he accepted it for the benefit of the country and walked away.”
Walton then asked Johnson “So why shouldn’t I lock you up sir? Why should I think that you won’t do this again?”
Johnson said he got “caught up in the moment” and a “hard couple of years” led him to “listening to a lot of information and reading things” online.
“Your honor, I understand that my actions are reprehensible but I am here pleading guilty because I am guilty. I have taken responsibility,” Johnson said. “This was my first protest and last protest.”
Walton, who was appointed by the man who defeated Gore, former President George W. Bush, is the most recent to add his voice to a chorus of judges criticizing Trump for lying to his supporters. Last week, a federal judge also suggested Trump had some responsibility for the attack on the Capitol and called the rioters “pawns” who were provoked into action.
During the hearing, Johnson revealed that he may write a book about his involvement in the riot. He agreed that the government can seize any money he makes publicizing the event for the next five years as part of his plea deal.
Johnson was originally charged with three federal crimes including theft of government property, but those charges will be dropped as part of his plea deal. He could face a sentence of up to six months in prison, according to his agreement with prosecutors read at his plea hearing on Monday. He will also pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol during the riot.
While photographs of Johnson carrying Pelosi’s lectern went viral, he apparently left it in the Capitol Hill rotunda.
In January, Johnson’s lawyer, Dan Eckhart, said the viral photographs made it a challenge to defend his client.
“I don’t know how else to explain that, but yeah that would be a problem,” Eckhart said. “I’m not a magician […] so yeah we’ve got a photograph of our client who appears to be inside the federal building with government property.”