WASHINGTON — A man who wore a “Trump 2020” hat as he beat one officer and dragged another down the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6 has pleaded guilty, admitting that he told officers they were “gonna die tonight” and repeatedly assaulted law enforcement.
Jack Wade Whitton, a 32-year-old from Georgia, bragged in a message obtained by the government that he “fed” a cop “to the people.” He pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a felony charge of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon, which carries a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. His estimated sentencing guidelines are 6.5 to 8 years in federal prison but could be slightly lower if a judge agrees with Whitton’s contention that none of his victims were physically restrained during the assault.
Whitton admitted he was one of the Jan. 6 rioters who assaulted police at the tunnel on the western side of the U.S. Capitol, where some of the most violent attacks took place.
Whitton admitted that he hit an officer with a crutch when the officer was on the ground, kicked another officer, and then dragged the officer he’d hit with a crutch down the stairs in a prone position. Other rioters then beat the officer with a flagpole and baton.
Whitten then returned to the police line about 20 minutes later, kicked at officers, kicked a riot shield held by an officer, and yelled “you’re gonna die tonight,” he acknowledged in his plea.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who accepted Whitton’s plea, had ordered Whitton detained before trial, citing the nature of the crime as well as former President Donald Trump’s comments about the election. Sullivan said he was “not convinced that dissatisfaction and concern about the legitimacy of the election results has dissipated for all Americans,” and said that Trump’s comments exacerbated the situation.
Trump’s comments, Sullivan wrote, “reflect the continued threat posed by individuals like Mr. Whitton, who has demonstrated that he is willing and able to engage in extreme and terrifying levels of violence against law enforcement with a chilling disregard for the rule of law and the lives of law enforcement, seemingly based on mistaken beliefs about the illegitimacy of the current administration.”
Whitton pleaded guilty the same day that three other Capitol rioters were convicted at a bench trial of assaulting officers. Two of those defendants were acquitted by Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden of a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding.
Whitton was an early target of the “Sedition Hunters” community that came together online to identify Capitol rioters after Jan. 6. Prosecutors referenced the role that “unknown Twitter users” played in tracking his movements using the hashtag #Scallops. The FBI said that a confidential source who had known Whitton since high school and went to his Cross Fit gym identified Whitton to the bureau.
The FBI has arrested more than 850 people in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and prosecutors have secured more than 350 convictions. Hundreds more Jan. 6 rioters have been identified to the FBI but have not yet been arrested.
A trial for members of the far-right Oath Keepers organization, who are facing seditious conspiracy charges, is set to begin later this month.
Ryan J. Reilly is a justice reporter for NBC News.