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Internet troll faces trial after Capitol pleading fizzles

A federal judge has scheduled a trial for a far-right internet troll for next year after the man known to his social media followers as “Baked Alaska” refused to plead guilty to a charge on Wednesday of the riots in the US Capitol.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused to accept a guilty plea from Anthime Gionet after he pleaded innocent at the beginning of what was set to be a plea agreement. Instead, the judge set a March 2023 trial date for Gionet, who is charged with a misdemeanor involving parading, demonstrating or picketing a Capitol building.

“If he wants a trial, he’ll get a fair trial,” Sullivan said.

After a private consultation with Gionet’s attorneys, Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said prosecutors would keep the plea offer open for 60 days. The judge scheduled a status hearing in the case for July 22.

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Gionet would have faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison if he had pleaded guilty to the offence.

During the Jan. 6, 2021 riots, Gionet streamed live video showing him in the Capitol and repeatedly encouraging other rioters to remain there. He joined others and sang: “Patriots are in control” and “Whose house? Our house!” Before leaving, he profanely called one police officer an “oathbreaker,” the FBI said.

Gionet told the judge he wanted a trial but claimed prosecutors threatened to “hit” him with an additional felony charge.

“So I think that’s probably the better way,” he added.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Sullivan asked.

“I think I’m innocent, Your Honor,” Gionet replied.

“I cannot accept your guilty plea when you tell me you are innocent,” the judge said.

Aloi said prosecutors never threatened to charge Gionet with a crime if he didn’t accept the plea deal.

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“We said the case would be investigated further and where the facts went, ultimately the charges would go,” she said.

“I accept that representation,” the judge said. “Your office has acted very honorably.”

Gionet’s attorney has claimed he only traveled to Washington DC to document what happened that day. Prosecutors denied Gionet’s claim that he was a member of the news media.

Other accused rioters have argued that they went to the Capitol simply as journalists to document what happened on January 6. protest, speak freely, and report the news.”

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Federal authorities have used Gionet’s video to track other rioters, including three men from New York City. Antonio Ferrigno, Francis Connor and Anton Lunyk pleaded guilty to riot charges on April 28. Gionet’s livestream showed them in Senator Jeff Merkley’s office, according to court filings attached to their plea agreements.

Gionet was arrested less than two weeks after the Houston riots. He has relocated to Florida from Arizona since his arrest.

Gionet, who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, used social media to build a following in far-right political circles. He became known for posting videos in which he tried to troll or prank his targets. He was scheduled to speak at the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia before the violence and bloodshed erupted in 2017.

BuzzFeed, where Gionet once worked, reported that Twitter permanently banned him from its platform after the Charlottesville rally.

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In January, Gionet was sentenced to 30 days in prison for misdemeanor stemming from an encounter in December 2020 in which authorities said he shot pepper spray at a bar employee in Scottsdale, Arizona.

More than 790 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riots. Over 280 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and over 170 have been convicted. About 100 others have trial dates.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/11/internet-troll-faces-trial-after-capitol-riot-plea-fizzles/ Internet troll faces trial after Capitol pleading fizzles

Joel McCord

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