Prosecutors seek 30 days in jail for aspiring Army pilot charged with Capitol riot who had Nazi footage on phone

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(Tribune News Service) – A South Carolina man charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is back in the hot seat after federal prosecutors say the man’s cellphone contained 80 Nazi and supremacist images white, according to a government sentencing memorandum in the case.

Prosecutors are seeking 30 days in jail for Elliot Bishai, 22, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, for his part in the riot, in which he climbed through a broken window and encouraged rioters to invade Capitol. Inside, he shouted “Civil War 2!”, according to the government memorandum.

At the time of the riot, Bishai was a member of the federally supported Civil Air Patrol, the civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

He should have known that being part of the Capitol meant he “betrayed his duty to protect the homeland,” the prosecution memo said. The Civil Air Patrol’s mission is “devoted to public safety,” the memo says.

In a related court filing, Bishai’s lawyers revealed that due to his arrest during the Capitol Riot, he was not accepted into an elite military program to train to become a pilot to fly. US Army helicopters. At the time of the Jan. 6 riot, he planned to join the army and become a helicopter pilot.

Bishai is to be sentenced in Washington on Friday before Judge Tanya Chutkan for entering and remaining in a restricted building.

Prosecutors also said that in addition to the Nazi and white supremacist images, Bishai had more than 400 videos made by an online personality, known as the “Gypsy Crusader”, but who is described in court documents as a ” far-right commentator…, streamer, white supremacist and convicted felon named Paul Nicholas Miller.

Miller has been linked to “several alt-right and far-right organizations, including the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo movement,” the prosecution memo states.

Bishai downplayed the significance of Nazi and white supremacist images and videos in court documents, saying he kept them only because he found them “humorous, not because he actually agreed with them.” their contents” and had not shared them with anyone, according to a prosecution memo. .

A 2021 Department of Defense report cited the dangers of white supremacists in the US military. He warned of the dangers that even a small number of such extremists can make within the military. He also said that terrorist organizations like to recruit members with military training.

On January 6, 2021, Bishai drove Elias Irizarry, a Citadel cadet, and Grayson Sherrill, of Gaston County, North Carolina, to Washington in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election had been stolen.

Irizarry and Sherrill will be tried in Washington on January 3.

Prior to the riot, all three attended a Trump rally at which the former president urged people to march on the Capitol to “stop the theft.” Bishai and Irizarry entered the Capitol through the broken window at 2:26 p.m., 13 minutes after the initial offense, the prosecution memo said.

Inside the Capitol, Sherrill hit a police officer with a metal pole, and Irizarry carried a metal pole with him but did not hit anyone, according to the evidence in their cases.

Although Bishai did not commit any violent acts, his presence at the Capitol that day “took place against the backdrop of a large and violent riot that relied on numbers to overwhelm the forces of the order, violate the Capitol and disrupt the proceedings. But for his actions alongside so many others, the riot likely would have failed,” prosecutors said.

“A riot cannot occur without rioters, and the actions of each rioter – from the most mundane to the most violent – contributed, directly and indirectly, to the violence and destruction of that day,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Bishai appeared to experience “excitement and joy” during the riot while inside the Capitol.

“Bishai celebrated the day’s violence by filming videos on his cellphone and encouraging other rioters to climb the walls, climb the stairs and enter the building,” prosecutors said.

When Bishai pleaded guilty in April, other charges against him for the Capitol riot were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, testimony and documents.

Bishai has been out on bail since his arrest in April 2021. A friend of Bishai and Irizarry tipped off the FBI about their involvement in the riot, documents show.

Bishai’s lawyers, John Maher and Donald Brown, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bishai’s lawyers seek leniency

In a defense memo on sentencing, Bishai’s attorneys offered a competing account, describing him as peaceful during the 27 minutes he spent on Capitol Hill and not deserving of any length of jail time. .

Bishai has suffered enough already, having “lost an opportunity to serve the United States Army as a pilot in the Army Warrant Officer Flight Program,” said the defense memo, written by the attorney for Charlotte, Dan Brown.

“This is Elliot’s lifelong dream and his actions have already cost him dearly. Additionally, Elliot has also had his student pilot license revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration, in conjunction with the Transportation Safety Administration Mr. Bishai lost his student pilot license and his opportunity to serve as an Army warrant officer for being on Capitol Hill for 27 minutes.

“Mr. Bishai has already paid dearly for his actions, and having him serve active incarceration would not serve the best interests of the United States or the defendant,” Brown wrote.

At the time of his arrest in March 2021, defense attorneys said Bishai had been accepted into a US Army program to become a warrant officer to fly military helicopters. Warrant Officer is a rank between the enlisted and officer ranks, and many warrant officers fly Army helicopters. The army has many types of helicopter pilots including those who fly the Black Hawk air assault helicopters in covert combat missions.

As Bishai awaited sentencing, he was employed as a firefighter to fight wildfires and a prison sentence of any length would take him away from his vital job as a first responder, Brown said.

“If the Court decides not to impose an active sentence at the end of this case, the defendant will immediately travel to Oregon, to fight the bushfires, until this situation is brought under control and until that he be given another mission in the line of fire,” Brown wrote. “We believe it will be in the interests of the United States, the American people, and the defendant to keep the defendant in this case on the front lines, fighting fires to help save property and help save lives. lives.”

Brown also noted that Bishai voluntarily pleaded guilty, is remorseful for his actions, apologized, and cooperated with the FBI. Federal prosecutor Grace Albinson is handling the case for the government.

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(c) 2022 The Herald (Rock Hill, SC)

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