Judge Gives Prison to Rioter With 'Gobbledygook' Defense

Washington state's Taylor James Johnatakis, 39, was convicted of 3 felonies
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2023 8:35 AM CST
Updated Apr 3, 2024 5:05 PM CDT
Capitol Rioter Slammed for 'Gobbledygook' Found Guilty
Rioters loyal to then-President Donald Trump stand on vehicles and the steps of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
UPDATE Apr 3, 2024 5:05 PM CDT

A federal judge who called a Jan. 6 defendant's arguments at trial "gobbledygook" sentenced him to seven years in prison on Wednesday, citing the man's lack of remorse. Judge Royce Lamberth said he had concerns that Taylor James Johnatakis would commit violence again if given the opportunity, NBC News reports. As he had during the trial, Johnatakis pressed his "sovereign citizen" argument at sentencing. The judge acknowledged letters from family and friends attesting to the defendant's positive attributes but said Johnatakis left those qualities behind "when he went to the Capitol on Jan. 6."

Nov 22, 2023 8:35 AM CST

Those who traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in what became the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol arrived from all over the country. On Tuesday, Washington state saw one of its own earn a conviction, with a federal jury finding 39-year-old Taylor James Johnatakis of Kingston guilty of three felony charges, after just a few hours of deliberation, reports NBC News. The charges included obstruction of an official proceeding, civil disorder, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers. In court, prosecutors said that a megaphone-wielding Johnatakis had led a group of rioters on Jan. 6 up an exterior Capitol staircase, where he then "organized and coordinated other rioters to assault the police line," including by encouraging others to push over bike racks that were serving as barriers, per a Justice Department release.

The Kitsap Sun reports that Johnatakis admitted in a podcast entitled The Peasants Perspective that he'd been at the Capitol during the riot, though in that broadcast he didn't detail what exactly he'd done there. NBC notes that Judge Royce Lamberth became fed up with Johnatakis during the trial, calling his arguments about being a "sovereign citizen" (ie, not beholden to state and federal laws) "gobbledygook" and "bulls---." "I would like to come to a resolution," Johnatakis reportedly said in court, noting he accepted "full liability" for the charges against him, yet wouldn't plead guilty. Lamberth called Johnatakis "hardheaded" and said his antics would increase his sentence.

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"I'm telling you the facts of life. You don't believe me," an exasperated Lamberth told Johnatakis. "When they find you guilty, you're going to jail." Johnatakis, who was arrested the month after the riot, was also found guilty of four misdemeanor charges, including entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; and engaging in an act of physical violence on the grounds of any of the Capitol buildings. It's not yet clear when Johnatakis will be sentenced. The DOJ release notes that, in the nearly three years since the Capitol riot, more than 1,200 individuals in almost all 50 states have been charged, though the investigation continues. (More Capitol riot stories.)

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