WASHINGTON — Dennis Sidorski walked into the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection at 2:14 p.m., about one minute after the door he used had been kicked in and the windows around it smashed. Wearing a sweatshirt that said “AMERICAN SUPREMACIST,” the Virginia man spent the next 37 minutes making his way around the building, recording confrontations between rioters and police and exploring offices, including the suite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In the weeks after the 2020 election, Sidorski had used his Parler account to boost lies promoted by former president Donald Trump and his allies about widespread voter fraud and to post insults of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (“Friggin dementia joe and a hoe,” he wrote. “You got to be kidding me.”) After Jan. 6, he threw away the sweatshirt he’d worn and deleted his Facebook account. He was arrested a week later.
At a hearing last week that flew under the radar until the signed paperwork appeared on the docket on Tuesday, Sidorski appeared to become the 200th person to admit he was guilty of participating in the Capitol attack, according to BuzzFeed News’ analysis of Jan. 6 cases. He pleaded guilty to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail and up to a $100,000 fine. His plea documents noted he briefly made “physical contact” with an officer on the Capitol grounds, but he wasn’t charged in connection with that. He’ll be sentenced on May 13.
The pace of guilty pleas picked up dramatically this winter. The 100th guilty plea was entered in mid-October, just over 10 months after the insurrection. By that point, plea hearing dates were swiftly stacking up on the calendar. It took only three months to hit the next milestone.
The majority of guilty pleas — 175 out of 200 — involve misdemeanor offenses. In all but two cases, the defendant reached an agreement with prosecutors. The most common charge featured in plea deals continues to be parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol. The parading charge is one of the lowest-level offenses brought in the Jan. 6 cases, carrying a maximum sentence of up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Felony guilty pleas have slowly started to creep up; there were 16 such cases in the first 100, and nine in the second. The latest batch of guilty pleas included a new cooperator, Matthew Greene, who was charged in a conspiracy case involving the Proud Boys extremist group; three people who admitted assaulting police officers; and Lonnie Coffman of Alabama, who brought a cooler of Molotov cocktails and a cache of firearms to Washington, DC. There is also a small but growing number of guilty pleas to more serious misdemeanors, such as the one featured in Sidorski’s agreement with the government.
Pleading guilty to a low-level misdemeanor minimizes the risk of spending significant time behind bars, especially for defendants with little to no past criminal record. That’s largely borne out in the Jan. 6 cases to make it to sentencing so far, with some judges expressing frustration that the government’s charging and plea decisions have limited the punishments they can fashion.
At least 20 more plea hearings, some of them tentative, are on the calendar for the coming weeks, and more are being scheduled daily. Meanwhile, prosecutors are getting ready to begin putting a few of these cases to a jury; the first trial — for defendant Guy Reffitt, accused of bringing a gun to the Capitol — is set to begin at the end of February.
BuzzFeed News has been tracking every prosecution filed in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection. There are more than 730 federal cases and counting. We’ll attempt to keep this chart of guilty pleas updated on a regular basis.