Trump Will ‘Be Back In Office,’ Jan. 6 Defendant Tells Judge

A man accused of firing a gun outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, told a federal judge on Monday that he had “nothing to worry about” because Donald Trump was “going to be back in office in six months.”

John Banuelos made the comment during his arraignment in Washington, D.C. Judge Tanya Chutkan had, only moments earlier, advised Banuelos to be careful about what he said in court, according to CBS News reporter Scott MacFarlane, who attended the hearing.

Earlier during the arraignment, Banuelos said he didn’t trust the public defender who was representing him. He called the lawyer a “public pretender” and said “they’re f**king with me,” MacFarlane reported.

Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, has repeatedly said he supports freeing all or most Jan. 6 rioters.

He has at times qualified the statement, saying he would pardon “many” or a “large portion” of the rioters. “I can’t say for every single one, because a couple of them, probably, they got out of control,” he said in May 2023. But other times, he has unconditionally referred to freeing all rioters: “Start treating the January 6th Protestors fairly,” he said in a statement in November 2022. “Let them all go now!”

“As President Trump has promised, he will pardon January 6th protestors who are wrongfully imprisoned by Crooked Joe Biden’s Justice Department, and those decisions will be determined on a case-by-case basis when he is back in the White House,” Karoline Leavitt, national press secretary for the Trump campaign, told NBC News in April.

Banuelos appeared via video Monday from a jail in Chicago, where he has been held since his arrest in March. He told Chutkan he feared for his life in Washington and asked the judge why he was being held behind bars. She responded by referencing the charges against him and a magistrate judge’s determination that he was a community or flight risk, MacFarlane reported.

Banuelos pleaded not guilty to six counts against him, including charges of civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; unlawful possession of a firearm on Capitol grounds or buildings; unlawful discharge of a firearm on Capitol grounds or buildings; and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building or grounds.

Other Jan. 6 defendants carried firearms with them during the attack, but Banuelos is the first defendant accused of firing his weapon.

According to an FBI agent’s statement of facts, Banuelos was identified in photos from Jan. 6 wearing a “Trump 2020” cowboy hat. During the riot, he allegedly kicked metal barricades at a police line near the Capitol building and joined a crowd that “forcefully push[ed]” against officers in an attempt to breach a police line.

Video captured by Vice News, and cited in the statement against Banuelos, allegedly shows him flashing a handgun during the riot.

At around 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6, Banuelos allegedly scaled scaffolding that had been set up for Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, pulled a firearm from his waistband and fired two shots in the air. The shots were “not captured on video,” according to the statement of facts, though they were allegedly “audible” on police officers’ body-worn cameras and in other footage from the day.

Banuelos told someone that he was in a Vice video, according to the statement of facts. A Twitter account with Banuelos’ name also allegedly responded to an account that had tweeted his FBI “wanted” poster with a video that appeared to show Banuelos racking the slide of a semi-automatic weapon. When interviewed by the FBI agent in January this year, Banuelos “denied intending to threaten anyone and claimed that many of his posts were done by artificial intelligence,” according to the agent. According to the National Crime Information Center database, Banuelos was not licensed to carry a firearm on Jan. 6, 2021, the agent said.

Six months after the Capitol attack, witnesses told Salt Lake City police that Banuelos fatally stabbed a 19-year-old man in Salt Lake City — though according to police records, Banuelos claimed he was acting in self-defense. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office later told a detective “we have determined that we are unable to proceed” with prosecuting Banuelos.

During an interview with police about the stabbing, Banuelos said, “I’m from Chicago. I was in the D.C. riots. You can look me up, OK? The FBI hasn’t came and got me yet,” according to a detective’s notes, Salt Lake City news outlet KSL reported.

FBI agents contacted Banuelos after NBC News first publicly identified him as an apparent Capitol rioter in 2022. But prosecutors said they didn’t begin “monitoring Banuelos’ cellular location data” until the footage that appeared to show him firing his gun emerged this year.

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