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A Nevada man who had referred to former President Donald Trump as his “idol” has pleaded guilty to two felonies in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Nathaniel DeGrave, 32, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers on Jan. 6, as thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol. The mob overwhelmed police and successfully breached the building, interrupting Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win and forcing lawmakers to evacuate or shelter in place for hours.
DeGrave technically faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge and up to eight years on the assault charge. Both counts carry a potential fine of up to $250,000.
DeGrave, who is from Las Vegas, along with co-defendant Ronald Sandlin, 34, of Tennessee, “planned to interfere with the peaceful transition of presidential power, beginning in December 2020,” the Department of Justice said.
“For example, on Dec. 31, 2020, DeGrave posted on Facebook, ‘Who can shoot and has excellent aim and can teach me today or tomorrow,”” prosecutors said. “The same day, he, Sandlin, and a third defendant, Josiah Colt, 35, of Meridian, Idaho, began a private chat on Facebook to plan for Jan. 6. In the chat, they discussed ‘shipping guns’ and shared meeting information.”
The three traveled to Washington together wearing what prosecutors described as “protective gear, including gas/face masks, helmets, and shin guards.”
DeGrave carried a can of bear spray and a walkie-talkie, prosecutors said.
The trio entered the Capitol through the Upper West Terrace door, and while inside, they allegedly pushed against officers guarding an exterior door to the Capitol Rotunda. According to prosecutors, DeGrave, Sandlin, and Colt slowly forced the door open from the inside, letting the mob in.
“During this moment, DeGrave shouted, ‘get the fuck through’ and ‘kick it the fuck open,’ while Sandlin attempted to rip the helmet off of one of the officers,” said the Statement of Offense, which states the facts to which DeGrave admitted in his plea.
The men then went up a set of stairs, according to the Statement of Offense. DeGrave admitting to hearing rioters chant “treason,” and Colt repeatedly said “let’s get to the Senate … where they’re meeting.”
They then encountered Capitol Police officers trying to lock the doors to the Senate gallery. DeGrave admitted to seeing Sandlin shove the officers in an effort to keep the doors open and then joining in the melee himself.
“During the shoving match, DeGrave laid his hands directly on at least two of the three USCP officers,” the Statement of Offense said. “The trio then gained access to the Senate Gallery. While there, DeGrave told Colt that he ‘punched this guy, like, five times.’ He later repeated, ‘I punched this guy, like, five times,’ adding, ‘he didn’t see my face though.’”
DeGrave also recorded the indelible image of Colt dangling from the Senate balcony before sitting in then-Vice President Mike Pence’s chair.
Shortly after the riot, prosecutors say, DeGrave deleted photographs, videos, and messages depicting the events of Jan. 6 from his phone and social media.
Colt pleaded guilty in July 2021 to the federal obstruction charge. Sandlin and DeGrave had sought to have that charge dismissed, but in December, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, allowed the charge to proceed, clearing the way for at least 10 other judges in the D.C. District to do the same. (Only U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, also a Trump appointee, has dismissed the charge.)
Sandlin has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody, according to court records.
Law&Crime reported in April that DeGrave and Sandlin may have been nearing a plea agreement with the government. DeGrave’s plea agreement includes an expansive cooperation clause that requires him to participate in nearly any investigation into the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol in a number of possible ways.
“[DeGrave] shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly with this Office and other Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities identified by this Office in any and all matters as to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant,” DeGrave’s plea agreement says. “[DeGrave] acknowledges that [his] cooperation may include, but will not necessarily be limited to: answering questions; providing sworn written statements; taking government-administered polygraph examination(s); and participating in covert law enforcement activities.”
So far, federal prosecutors have made more than 840 arrests and obtained five jury convictions in connection with the Capitol breach.
According to the DOJ, a sentencing date for DeGrave has not been set. The plea agreement contemplates a potential prison sentence of 63 to 78 months, or between more than five to more than seven years.
Read the Statement of Offense and the plea agreement here:
[Images via FBI court filings.]
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