An Alabama man in his mid-20s who participated in last year’s Trump-incited mob attack on the Capitol, where he was carrying a pocketknife that he used to rip some of the cloth around scaffolding outside the building from rioters’ way, was found guilty in Washington, D.C. federal court last week of two felony offenses.
The trial was a bench trial, meaning a federal judge — in this case, Reggie B. Walton — decided on the defendant’s guilt. William Watson, the defendant, was ultimately among the very first individuals to actually breach the Capitol building, and he eventually ended up in a portion of the building where mob participants chasing Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman were heading. (A press release from the Justice Department doesn’t specify whether Watson participated in the chase.) Watson was found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a dangerous weapon. The obstruction charge, which has repeatedly popped up in cases derived from the riot, comes with up to 20 years in prison, although nobody charged in a riot case has received a jail sentence that long, and the weapons offense carries up to 10 years.
Sentencing memos will be forthcoming, with sentencing itself next March. Like other riot participants, Watson chronicled his involvement in the violence on social media. On Snapchat, he captioned a photo showing himself and others in the Ohio Clock Corridor, which is where those rioters were confronting Goodman: “The fake news won’t win against the thousands of patriots recorded today.” What about federal criminal charges? Watson’s initial entrance to the Capitol was through a broken window in the Senate Wing of the building, which is the same way others participating in the first parts of the breach made it inside. Besides the knife, prosecutors note Watson was also eventually carrying a canister of chemical spray. “Officers eventually escorted Watson and others out of the building,” a Justice Department press release says.
Others who were among the first inside the building have also been the subject of recent developments in court. As reported on this site, federal prosecutors are asking for nearly four years in jail (a total of 46 months) for Capitol riot participant and Montana man Joshua Calvin Hughes, who alongside his brother was one of the first to climb through a broken window in the Senate Wing of the building that helped set off the breach. The Hughes brothers were among those who confronted Goodman as the chaos began. Goodman has been widely hailed for leading mob participants away from the still-occupied Senate chamber as he faced the furious crowd alone in those halls.