HELENA — It’s been three years since rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, delaying Congress's certification of the 2020 election results. More than 1,200 people have faced federal charges for their alleged actions that day, including eight people from or with direct ties to Montana.
Of the Montana connections, seven have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes for participation during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Patrick O’Brien of Great Falls is the most recent Montana-connected suspect to plead guilty for his actions that day.
In September, O’Brien accepted a plea agreement admitting to unlawfully parading, demonstrating, or picketing in any United States Capitol building. By entering his guilty plea, the government has agreed to drop the counts of entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct, and disorderly conduct.
The prosecution alleged O’Brien and his son were in the Capitol Building for around 28 minutes and could be seen in footage in the Capitol Rotunda waving a “Gadsden” flag.
Sentencing is set in Washington D.C., on February 2.
Hank Muntzer of Dillon is also still awaiting trial. Muntzer is accused of entering the Capitol that day with the intent to impede and disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results by Congress. The Dillon native has stated previously he believes video evidence from that day will show he did nothing wrong.
In court documents, federal investigators say Muntzer can be seen in the U.S. Capitol on footage captured by an MSNBC news crew. He is also accused of recording videos inside the U.S. Capitol and posting them to social media.
A jury trial for Muntzer has been set in Washington D.C. on Feb. 5, 2024, at 7:30 a.m. Mountain Time.
Montana-linked cases that have received prison time
One of the most prominent convictions is that of Elmer Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers and disbarred Montana attorney. RhodRhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy.
Rhodes formed the Oath Keepers in 2009 after the election of President Obama. The Oathkeepers operated as a militia group and actively recruited military, law enforcement and veterans.
In 2010, Rhodes relocated his law firm to Montana where he was licensed to practice law. Court filings had listed Montana addresses for Rhodes in Big Arm, Kalispell and Trego over the years. On December 8, 2015, the Montana Supreme Court officially disbarred Rhodes from practicing law for conduct violating the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct.
Isaac Sturgeon of Dillon has received the second-longest sentence for a Montana-connected case.
In September, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison with three years of supervised release. Sturgeon and co-defendant Craig Bingert of Pennsylvania were convicted of more than a half dozen charges in May for actions taken on the grounds of the Capitol.
The Dillon native was captured on an officer's body-worn camera outside the capitol. In the video, he can be seen as part of a group that picked up a metal barricade and shoved it into a group of D.C. Metropolitan police officers.
Other notable Montana-linked cases include East Helena brothers Joshua and Jerod Hughes.
The Hughes brothers were some of the first rioters to breach the Capitol that day, according to the Department of Justice. The men were at the front of the crowd as it moved through the Capitol. They quickly encountered Officer Eugene Goodman who led rioters away from the Senate Chambers, which was still being evacuated at the time.
On January 11, 2021, the Hughes brothers voluntarily turned themselves into Helena Police after seeing news reports that the FBI was trying to identify them.
Both brothers pleaded guilty to Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting.
Jerod Hughes was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison and Joshua Hughes was sentenced to three years and two months in prison.
In court filings, Jerod Hughes’ lawyer said the East Helena man sincerely regrets his involvement with Hughes initially believing those actions were patriotic, but now feeling duped and taken advantage of by former President Trump.