Capitol Riot 'Lectern Guy' sentenced to 75 days in prison, $5K fine
WASHINGTON - A federal judge has sentenced a Tampa Bay area man known as "lectern guy" to 75 days in prison for his role in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Adam Johnson, 37, of Parrish was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine as part of his sentence.
Johnson walked away with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lectern and gleefully posed for a photo with it during the January 6, 2021 riot.
That photo quickly went viral.
The man seen toting Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the riot was mistakenly identified by some social media users as "Via Getty," based on a misinterpretation of the photo caption -- but a former parishioner from his church told FOX 13 that she immediately knew who it was.
"I instantly recognized him, so it's kind of like, 'What are the odds?'" Alex Noon said. "I just wanted to make sure people knew who he was so that he could be held accountable."
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Johnson was accompanied by a friend when he flew from Tampa to Washington, D.C., to attend then-President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally. They ran to the Capitol when they learned that it had been breached. Johnson, after getting separated from his friend, climbed scaffolding before he entered the building.
He jiggled the door handle to an office that he believed belonged to Pelosi, but it was locked.
As Johnson watched rioters trying to break down the doors to the House Chamber, where frightened lawmakers were trapped, he shouted that a bust of George Washington would make "a great battering ram," prosecutors said.
"Thankfully, no one heeded his suggestion," a prosecutor wrote.
Prosecutors also presented the viral photo of Johnson with Pelosi's lectern as evidence, while his defense attorneys said he didn't know that the podium belonged to Pelosi when he moved it from a cloak room.
"Arguably, if he latched onto some other piece of government furniture for his photo opportunity jail time would not even be a consideration," they wrote in a court filing.
After driving home, Johnson bragged that he "broke the internet" and was "finally famous," prosecutors said. They argued that his actions at the Capitol "illustrate his sense of entitlement and privilege."
Johnson had also documented his trip to Washington, D.C., posting photos from inside the Capitol on his Facebook account before he later shut it down.
Photo via PCSO
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In November 2021, Johnson decided to resolve his case and skip a jury trial, pleading guilty to entering and remaining in a restricted building; the rest of the charges against him were dropped by prosecutors.
In that hearing, federal Judge Reggie Walton scolded Johnson for his "clownish behavior," calling him weak-minded enough to "follow a lie and do what you did."
Johnson apologized for his regrettable behavior and told the judge, "I am pleading guilty because I am guilty."
Prosecutors said they received a tip during plea negotiations with Johnson that he intended to publish a memoir. His plea agreement includes an unusual provision that requires him to relinquish compensation from any book, script, song, interview or product bearing his name or likeness, for up to five years.
Under the plea agreement, he faced up to 6 months in prison. Prior to sentencing on Tuesday, Johnson's attorney asked the judge for leniency because he cares for his five children while his wife works as a doctor.
Prosecutors argued that Johnson is a stay-at-home father and hasn't had to work for the past 11 years, saying the couple could afford to hire somebody to care for their children if he were jailed.
Johnson and his wife have received death threats, his lawyers said.
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"His wife’s medical practice suffered financially and some of Adam’s oldest friends will no longer speak to him or his family," they wrote.
The judge declined to give the prison time requested by the prosecution, but agreed that some time behind bars was appropriate, ultimately settling on 75 days.
Johnson told Judge Reggie Walton that posing with Pelosi's podium was a "very stupid idea."
"I bear no ill will toward her or her office at all," Johnson said.
Walton said America is on a dangerous path when many citizens believe that they "have a right to do whatever in order to have the person who they want in power sitting in the White House."
"That's what we see in banana republics," the judge said. "That's what we see in countries like we're experiencing now over in Ukraine. That's where we're headed if we don't do something to stop it. And I don't know what we do to stop it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.