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Capitol rioter photographed with Pelosi's podium on Jan. 6 sentenced to prison

Adam Johnson bragged he "broke the internet" when he was photographed carrying Nancy Pelosi's lectern during the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Image: Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson carries the lectern of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021.Win McNamee / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A Florida man who bragged he "broke the internet" when he was photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's podium during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to 75 days in prison on Friday.

Adam Johnson, a stay-at-home father of five boys, traveled to D.C. in support of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost to President Joe Biden. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton sentenced Johnson to prison on Friday, saying Johnson made "a mockery" of the events by grabbing Pelosi's lectern and played an active role in the attack. Walton said he just couldn't overlook Johnson's behavior, which he said was deserving of a period of incarceration. Johnson will get credit for some time he's already served, and will also pay a $5,000 fine.

"We're on a dangerous slide in America," Walton said Friday, calling what happened on Jan. 6 something you'd expect to "see in banana republics." Walton asked Johnson how he could hold himself out as a good role model for his five children when he came to D.C. and did what he did on Jan. 6.

Johnson, speaking to the court on Friday, said he'd been "nothing but cooperative" with the government since his arrest, and said his actions demonstrated that he was apologetic and was "ashamed" to have been a part of the Capitol riot.

Johnson said he recognized that if he did what he did in another country, he'd be "on a firing wall instead of a courtroom." He claimed he had no intent to harm Pelosi.

"If I did find her, I would ask for a selfie with her, if anything," Johnson said.

Johnson pleaded guilty to a criminal count of entering and remained in a restricted building or grounds, admitting that he unlawfully entered the Capitol after witnessing battles with police outside the building, and then grabbed Pelosi's podium "because he believed it would make a good prop for a picture." Johnson also admitted that he shouted that a bust of George Washington would be "a great battering ram" as rioters attempted to break into the floor of the U.S. House, where members of Congress were still present.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Arco told the court Friday that Johnson's conduct deserves prison time. She played a video of Johnson jiggling the door of what he thought was Pelosi's office. There can be no question, Arco said, that Johnson knew he was part of a violent mob.

"Mr. Johnson was part of a mob," Arco said. "He knew that.”

Justice Department prosecutors argued in a memo ahead of his sentencing that Johnson's actions illustrated his "sense of entitlement and privilege" and that he appeared "defiant and righteous in his trespassing, which he celebrated by posting this photo to Facebook." Federal prosecutors had requested a sentence of 90 days behind bars.

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson.U.S. Attorney for D.C.

Johnson's attorneys claimed in their own filing that Johnson "deeply regrets his participation in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6" and that the "damage and violence inflicted on that date by others is contrary to everything he believes in." They argued that his five children would be negatively impacted by his imprisonment, and that Johnson received extra scrutiny because the lectern he grabbed belonged to the speaker of House.

"Unfortunately, he received considerable attention simply because the lectern belonged to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi," they wrote. "Arguably, if he latched onto some other piece of government furniture for his photo opportunity jail time would not even be a consideration."

The FBI has arrested more than 740 people in connection with the U.S. Capitol attack, out of more than 2,500 individuals who engaged in chargeable criminal conduct that day. Sentences have ranged from probationary sentences and fines for misdemeanor defendants to five years in federal prison for Robert Scott Palmer, who attacked officers with a fire extinguisher and received the longest sentence of any Capitol rioter so far.

On Thursday, a judge sentenced Jeffrey Register — who helped lead the mob towards the doors to the House Speaker's lobby, where Ashli Babbitt was shot — to 75 days in prison. Earlier in the week, Mariposa Castro received 45 days in prison. More than 40 Capitol rioters have received sentences of incarceration so far, and more than 200 defendants have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor offenses.