TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Nearly 15,000 hours of video captured the violence and destruction at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but investigators say nearly 80 percent of the government’s 706 cases are built on evidence gathered from social media.
Twenty Bay Area residents have been arrested so far accounting for nearly a third of the 76 defendants from Florida. Another six are from Marion County, including Ocala husband and wife couples Jamie and Jennifer Buteau and Oath Keepers Connie and Kelly Meggs.
One of the most memorable viral pictures of the day shows Parrish resident Adam Johnson smiling ear to ear and waving while hoisting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.
The grin was gone from Johnson’s face after his April arrest as his attorney Dan Eckhart discussed how he could not make the video evidence disappear.
“I’m not a magician,” Eckhart said. “We have a photograph of our client with what appears to be government property inside the capital.”
Johnson pleaded guilty in November. Federal prosecutors agreed not to seek prison time but a judge will make the final decision at a hearing next month.
Last February, Englewood businessman Graydon Young was one of the first arrested in the country.
The 54-year-old veteran who said he joined the Oath Keepers in December of 2020 was also the first to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with the government.
During his first hearing in a Tampa federal courtroom, Young slumped his head onto a table as the judge discussed the case.
Young is also scheduled for sentencing next month.
Paul Hodgkins, described as a quiet man from Tampa, was incriminated the way many others were. By a House floor selfie of him standing near the Speaker’s rostrum.
Hodgkins is now locked up in a Miami prison, one of the first to begin serving a sentence. Hodgkins is scheduled to be released in May.
Hodgkin’s explanation was similar to many others, according to his attorney Patrick Leduc who said he went to protest the election but got carried away.
“This guy is poor as dirt, working-class, humble,” Leduc said. “His worst nightmare is this.”
Largo’s Robert Palmer, caught on video throwing a fire extinguisher, a plank and a spear-like pole at police, teared up outside court last Fall after pleading guilty.
Palmer will soon begin serving more than 5 years in prison in what is so far the longest sentence.
The government has now secured more than 170 guilty pleas, but one local defendant said he will never plead guilty.
Former Congressional Candidate Jeremy Brown, a retired Green Beret once featured on a Special Forces recruitment poster, talked with 8 on your side from the Pinellas County Jail, insisting the video evidence will clear him.
“We weren’t even anywhere close to the capitol when we found out the capitol got breached,” Brown said, referring to a group he was with that day. “There are political factors at play here and those that refuse to recognize them are never going to grasp the entire big picture and that’s why I’m taking my case to trial.”
Bay area defendant number 21 could be Jonathan Pollock of Lakeland. Pollock, his sister Olivia Pollock and cousin Joshua Doolin are charged in an indictment unsealed in July.
The FBI recently released a video that investigators said shows Pollock tackle a Capitol Police Officer.
During a Zoom news conference, Representative Kathy Castor reflected on the past 12 months but was not sure why so many of the defendants are from the Tampa area.
“It is hard to understand but like I said it’s up to all citizens to come together and reject people who would advocate or participate in a violent overthrow of the government,” Castor said.
Castor did add the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and other groups with strongholds in Florida more than likely contributed to the high number of local residents facing charges.
Jon Lewis from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism said conservative views helped those organizations grow in the state and no doubt expanded the number of defendants.
But he tells me research now shows the most violent charges, including the allegations against Pollock, are not tied to any of the groups.
“A significant proportion of them who have alleged to have engaged in violence really are what you’d consider your average American,” Lewis said “Your neighbor, your friend. Someone in your society.”