2 active-duty Marines plead guilty to Capitol riot charges
Jun 12, 2023, 4:02 PM
Two men who were active-duty members of the Marines Corps when they stormed the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty on Monday to riot-related criminal charges.
Joshua Abate and Dodge Dale Hellonen are scheduled to be sentenced in September by U.S. District Judge Ana Reyes. Both pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia.
Many Capitol rioters are military veterans, but only a few were actively serving in the armed forces when they joined a mob’s attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
A third active-duty Marine, Micah Coomer, also was charged with Abate and Hellonen. Coomer pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor charge in May and is scheduled to be sentenced by Reyes on Aug. 30.
All three men face a maximum sentence of six months of imprisonment.
As of May 19, the Marines were still in the service. No additional information was available Monday.
David Dischley, an attorney for Abate, declined to comment on his client’s guilty plea. An assistant public defender who represents Hellonen didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Authorities arrested the three men in January: Abate at Fort Meade, Maryland; Coomer in Oceanside, California; and Hellonen in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Witnesses stationed with Coomer at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia and with Hellonen at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina identified them in videos of the Jan. 6 riot, according to the FBI. A third witness — also a Marine — identified Abate from footage captured inside the Capitol, the FBI said.
During a June 2022 for his security clearance, Abate said he and two “buddies” had walked through the Capitol on Jan. 6 “and tried not to get hit with tear gas,” according to an FBI special agent.
“Abate also admitted he heard how the event was being portrayed negatively and decided that he should not tell anybody about going into the U.S. Capitol Building,” the agent wrote in an affidavit.
After the riot, Coomer posted photos on Instagram with the caption “Glad to be (a part) of history.” The angles of the photos and the caption indicated he had been inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, the FBI said. The phone number listed for Coomer in his military personal file matched the Instagram account.
Coomer drove to Washington on the morning of Jan. 6 from his military post in Virginia. He attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally with Abate and Hellonen before they entered the Capitol. Inside the Rotunda, they placed a red “Make America Great Again” hat on a statute before taking photos of it, prosecutors said. The three men spent nearly an hour inside the Capitol before leaving.
Less than a month after the riot, Coomer told another Instagram user that he believed “everything in this country is corrupt.”
“We honestly need a fresh restart. I’m waiting for the boogaloo,” he wrote, according to the FBI.
When the other user asked what that term meant, Coomer wrote, “Civil war 2.”
“Boogaloo” movement supporters use the term as slang for a second civil war or collapse of civilization. They frequently show up at protests armed with rifles and wearing Hawaiian shirts under body armor.
Over 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Approximately 600 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors punishable by maximum terms of imprisonment of six months or one year.
___ Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.