Willard Peart: 4th Utahn federally charged for participating in Capitol riot
SALT LAKE CITY – A fourth person is facing federal charges for his participation in the riot at the U.S. Capitol in early January. And legal analysts say that even if he didn’t cause any damage, he still participated in the crime.
The charges stem from a conversation Willard Peart of Toquerville had with FBI investigators on January 20th. Charging documents say Peart and his attorney told investigators he attended the pro-Trump rally on the 6th, then walked to the U.S. Capitol Building. Peart stated he had no initial plans to go inside but decided to enter after seeing other protesters go in.
The document states, “According to Peart, upon entering, he roved around the first floor between the Senate Chamber and Statuary Hall. While roving, Peart joined other rioters in chanting and calling out politicians.”
Prosecutors say video footage from inside the Capitol confirms Willard Peart didn’t participate in destroying any portion of the building, nor did he assault anyone. However, they say he knowingly entered into a restricted building with an intention to disrupt government business.
“While inside, Peart’s conduct was disorderly and disruptive due to the fact that Peart chanted loudly inside while parading and demonstrating inside of the building. At no time did Peart have permission to be inside of the U.S. Capitol Building,” documents state.
Peart is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful activity, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
Former prosecutor, Kent Morgan, who is not connected to this case, said those charges seem quite lenient. He also said that just because a building is a “government building,” that doesn’t always mean it’s a public area.
“[Protesters] not only entered the Capitol and broke windows on the way in, but they entered everyone’s office, as well,” Morgan said.
Even if Peart only went inside after seeing others do so, Morgan says Peart took part in the illegal activity by joining the chanting.
“No matter what the cause is, once you engage in an activity that creates physical danger to someone else, then you’ve passed the Constitution [protected things] and you’ve gone into criminal activity,” says Morgan. “Are you a party to the crime? Yes, you are.”
Morgan believes federal prosecutors are cracking down heavily on everyone who participates in violent protests. For instance, four people were federally charged last August for overturning a Salt Lake City Police car and setting it on fire during the violent protest downtown.
He said, “I think they’re attempting to dissuade people in the future from engaging in this sort of activity.”
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