Anchorman actor facing up to five years in prison after admitting role in Capitol riots

Entertainment

A comedy actor who had parts in Anchorman and Arrested Development faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to interfering with police officers during the US Capitol riots.

Jay Johnston, who also voiced pizzeria owner Jimmy Pesto in the animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, is one of more than 1,400 people who have been charged with crimes related to the violence in Washington DC on 6 January 2021.

Video footage captured the 55-year-old pushing against police and helping rioters during the disorder at the lower west tunnel leading into the Capitol.

The tunnel is where some of the worst violence between rioters and police officers took place during the chaos.

Johnston, from Los Angeles, was “close to the entrance to the tunnel, turned back and signalled for other rioters to come towards the entrance”, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.

He also held a stolen police shield over his head and passed it to other rioters during the attack, the affidavit adds.

The attack on January 6 2021 intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election.

Jay Johnston at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Pic: FBI
Image:
Jay Johnston at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. Pic: FBI

A court filing accompanying Johnston’s plea agreement says he used his mobile phone to record rioters as they broke through barricades and sent police officers retreating.

Three current or former associates of Johnston identified him as a riot suspect from photos that the FBI published online, according to the agent.

The FBI said one of those associates provided investigators with a text message in which Johnston acknowledged being at the Capitol on the day of the riots.

“The news has presented it as an attack. It actually wasn’t. Thought it kind of turned into that. It was a mess. Got maced and tear gassed and I found it quite untastic,” Johnston wrote, according to the FBI.

The actor, who was arrested in June last year, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison after pleading guilty to civil disorder.

He is due to be sentenced on 7 October.

Johnston faced professional backlash long before he was charged in connection with his role in the riots.

His character in Bob’s Burgers was written off the show because of the actor’s involvement in storming the Capitol, the Daily Beast reported in December 2021.

Earlier in his Hollywood career, Johnston had regularly portrayed police officers, including on The Sarah Silverman Show and Arrested Development.

Johnston also played a member of Wes Mantooth’s news crew during the epic battle scene in Anchorman – the 2004 classic comedy which starred Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy.

Read more:
Trump supporter who bear-sprayed officers is jailed
Proud Boys leaders sentenced to long prison terms over Capitol riots
Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn election result

Jay Johnston at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Pic: FBI
Image:
Jay Johnston at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. Pic: FBI

What happened during the US Capitol riots?

Five police officers died and 140 were seriously injured during the insurrection which took place two months after Trump was defeated in the 2020 presidential election.

His supporters rioted outside, and some entered, the United States Capitol Building in Washington DC.

The mob sought to keep Trump in power by preventing a joint session of Congress from counting the Electoral College votes to formalise the victory of president-elect Mr Biden.

The FBI has made more than 1,400 arrests and secured more than 1,000 convictions in relation to the riots.

While hundreds of low-level defendants have been sentenced to probation, more than 540 prison sentences have been handed out ranging from a few days behind bars to 22 years in federal prison.

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