WASHINGTON — A right-wing internet personality who livestreamed himself storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was set to plead guilty to a federal charge Wednesday as part of a plea deal reached with federal prosecutors, but the plea deal went up in smoke after he declared himself innocent.
Anthime Joseph Gionet, also known as "Baked Alaska," was set to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count in which he would admit he "willfully and knowingly paraded, demonstrated, and picketed" inside the Capitol. Gionet was charged just one day after the Capitol attack and arrested in January 2021. He originally faced charges of entering or remaining on restricted grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
But the deal went out the window at a hearing Wednesday after Judge Emmet G. Sullivan asked Gionet whether he was pleading guilty because he was, in fact, guilty.
"I wanted to go to trial, but the prosecutors if I [went] to trial, they would put a felony on me, so I think this is probably the better route," Gionet said. "I believe I'm innocent ... but they're saying if I go to trial they're going to hit me with a felony."
So Sullivan said he'd set a trial date for March 2023.
"If Mr. Gionet wants to go to trial, he'll get a fair trial, like anyone and everyone else who has appeared before me, regardless of the charges," Sullivan said. "I'm not trying to trick you. ... Don't plead guilty to please me."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Ann Aloi said they would hold the plea deal open for 60 days.
Gionet had joined other supporters of former President Donald Trump as they breached the Capitol in support of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In prior hearings, Sullivan has strongly condemned the Capitol breach and pondered how many "law-abiding" Americans "morphed into terrorists" on Jan. 6.
In a separate case, Gionet was sentenced in January to 30 days in jail in connection with the December 2020 assault of a Scottsdale, Arizona, bartender. He was also charged last year over allegedly tearing down a Jewish group's Hanukkah display, again in December 2020.
In 2017, Gionet marched in the violent white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In March, Gionet's mother sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, trying to shield her son's communications because her son was on the family plan.
More than 285 people have pleaded guilty in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and nearly 800 individuals have been charged. As NBC News has reported, the FBI has the names of hundreds of additional Capitol rioters who have not been arrested. The Biden administration is seeking millions in new funds to prosecute hundreds of Jan. 6 rioting cases.