WASHINGTON — A Virginia man whose presence in the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection went viral after he was recorded walking around in a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt entered a guilty plea on Wednesday.
Robert Packer pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol, a misdemeanor charge that carries up to six months in jail. He’d been charged solely with misdemeanor crimes from the start, and a second count he’d faced for illegally entering a restricted building — a higher-level misdemeanor carrying up to a year behind bars — was dropped as part of his agreement with the government.
Packer wasn’t accused of violence or some of the more serious crimes committed at the Capitol, but as BuzzFeed News reported when he was arrested a week after the attack, “For many, the blatantly white supremacist outfit he wore symbolized the racist elements of the violent attempted coup.” Packer’s sweatshirt referred to the Nazi death camp in Poland where an estimated 1.1 million people were killed during the Holocaust.
There was no mention of the sweatshirt during Wednesday’s plea hearing before US District Judge Carl Nichols. The judge accepted Packer’s plea without any complications. The prosecutor noted that as part of the agreement, Packer agreed to speak with the FBI about the events of Jan. 6 and to provide investigators with access to his social media accounts; that type of partial cooperation has been a common provision in misdemeanor plea deals in these cases.
Packer is scheduled to face sentencing on April 7.
Federal agents investigating the Capitol assault have probed possible connections between extremist groups and the people who descended on the building to disrupt Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results. When the FBI asked a judge to sign off on a search warrant of Packer’s house a week after the insurrection, an agent wrote that in addition to evidence related to his physical presence in the Capitol, such as the sweatshirt, they were also looking for “any other evidence of Nazi symbolism.”
According to a redacted return of that warrant first reported by Seamus Hughes of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, the items that agents reported finding included “Swastika artwork,” an “image of Hitler,” and “two VCR tapes with Hitler photos.” The government’s court filings in Packer’s case didn’t detail any formal ties to neo-Nazi or other extremist groups.