An ex-GOP staffer pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and now faces up to 15 years in prison

Capitol
The US Capitol is shown through security fencing on March 21, 2021.

  • An ex-GOP staffer pleaded guilty to a child pornography charge and faces 12 to 15 years in prison.
  • An investigation found Ruben Verastigui took part in a chat featuring sexual depictions of children.
  • “Verastigui’s release would put the public and children everywhere at-risk,” prosecutors said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A former GOP staffer and Republican National Committee aide pleaded guilty to a child pornography charge after he admitted to possessing 50 photos and 152 videos of child pornography.

Ruben Verastigui, 27, entered a guilty plea during a video conference hearing and could face 12 to 15 years in prison under a plea deal with prosecutors.

Verastigui was involved in a ring of at least 18 other people who were trading child pornography via a chat group on an unnamed website, in which he was accused of trading sexual depictions of children and discussing killing children.

The DC Metropolitan Police arrested Verastigui in February, after an investigation. He was accused of having “distributed, received, and possessed images of child pornography” between March 2020 and February 2021, according to a press release from the MPD.

The Daily Beast reported Verastigui had worked for the Senate Republican Conference as a digital strategist until July 2020, according to his now-deleted LinkedIn profile, and he also designed social media ads for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Congressional payroll records also showed Verastigui worked as a digital director for the Joint Economic Committee in 2018, Politico reported.

Following his arrest, federal prosecutors wrote in a detention memo in February that Verastigui sought out images of rape of children and discussed “in great detail” how he enjoyed seeing children abused and killed, citing a report from The Daily Beast. Chat logs included messages between Verastigui and another group chat member talking about traveling somewhere with police officers so they could kill a child, according to the memo.

“Verastigui’s release would put the public and children everywhere at-risk,” prosecutors wrote in the February memo.

A judge is set to rule on Verastigui’s sentence on October 12.

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6 months after Capitol insurrection, the suspect who planted pipe bombs near the DNC and RNC headquarters has not been arrested

The suspect who planted the pipe bombs was captured in surveillance video.
The suspect who planted the pipe bombs was captured in surveillance video.

  • The suspect who planted two pipe bombs near the RNC and DNC headquarters has not yet been arrested by authorities.
  • The FBI is offering a $100,000 for tips or information on the suspect.
  • Nearly 550 suspected rioters have been arrested in connection with the Capitol insurrection on January 6.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The suspect who planted two pipe bombs in Washington, DC, ahead of January 6 has yet to be arrested, six months after the Capitol insurrection.

A mob of pro-Trump supporters breached the Capitol six months ago on January 6, the same day Congress was set to certify then-President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. More than 500 suspected rioters are facing charges in connection with the riot.

The Associated Press reported in January that the pipe bombs were placed the night before rioters descended upon the Capitol – one behind the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the other next to a park bench near the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Police discovered the pipe bombs – filled with black explosive powder and fitted with egg timers – around 1 p.m. local time on January 6, shortly after rioters confronted Capitol Police officers. Surveillance footage captured the suspect wearing a grey hooded sweater and carrying a backpack while placing the pipe bombs between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. local time on January 5.

“The unknown individual wore a face mask, a grey hooded sweatshirt, and black and light grey Nike Air
Max Speed Turf shoes with a yellow logo,” according to a press release from the FBI.

The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for tips and information on identifying the suspect.

DC Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said during a House Oversight Committee hearing in May that “that investigation continues on.”

During the same hearing, Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton told lawmakers that the pipe bombs could have been planted as a “diversion,” after three teams were dispatched to investigate the incident, leaving one team to guard the Capitol on January 6.

“If those pipe bombs were intended to be a diversion, it worked,” Bolton said during his testimony.

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US seizes $90,000 from insurrectionist who sold footage of Ashli Babbitt’s fatal shooting to news outlets

John Earle Sullivan, left. People record the Capitol riot on their phones, right.
John Earle Sullivan, left, recorded the chaos of the Capitol riot and sold the footage to news agencies.

  • John Earle Sullivan, charged with eight criminal counts, claimed to be at the Capitol riot as a documentarian.
  • He recorded Ashli Babbitt’s fatal shooting and sold it to news outlets, Reuters reported.
  • US authorities have now seized around $90,000 – the amount he is believed to have made from selling the video.
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US authorities have confiscated roughly $90,000 from a man who sold footage of a protester being fatally shot during the January 6 storming of the Capitol, according to court filings seen by Reuters.

John Earle Sullivan, a 26-year-old from Utah, recorded videos capturing the chaos of the Capitol riot, Reuters said. He claims to have been there as a “documentarian” but now faces a total of eight criminal counts relating to his involvement in the insurrection, Insider previously reported.

One of the videos he recorded, which included the shooting of Ashli Babbitt by a police officer, was sold to several unnamed news outlets for a total of $90,000, according to a seizure warrant seen by the news agency.

Sullivan licensed parts of the video footage to the Washington Post and NBC, The New Yorker reported in February.

Read more: A Trump-appointed prosecutor blindsided the Biden DOJ with a ’60 Minutes’ interview on the Capitol riot cases. Now a federal judge wants to talk about it.

Sullivan reportedly boasted about the value of the gruesome footage of Babbit- one of the five people who died during the unrest on January 6. “My footage is worth like a million of dollars, millions of dollars,” he said, according to the court filings.

“Dude, this s— is gonna go viral,” Sullivan crowed shortly after watching Babbitt fall to the ground in a pool of blood, The New Yorker reported.

Sullivan is one of the many insurrectionists who is using the legal defense that he was at the Capitol siege purely for journalistic reasons.

But, according to an affidavit against him submitted to the US District Court for DC, he played a more active role in the Capitol siege. He is accused of using a microphone to shout, “Let’s burn this s–t down,” while breaching the Capitol’s security barrier, the affidavit said.

An FBI affidavit also pointed out that the self-proclaimed journalist had no press credentials, the Rolling Stone reported.

Sullivan is charged with eight criminal counts including weapons charges, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

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A rapper is facing federal charges after his album cover featured a photo of him posing on a SWAT truck during the Capitol riot

capitol siege trump supporters
US Capitol siege in Washington DC on January 6, 2021.

  • A Virginia rapper “Bugzie the Don” faces federal charges after he used a photo of himself at the Capitol riot on an album cover.
  • Antionne DeShaun Brodnax released his album cover, which features him sitting on a SWAT car in front of the Capitol.
  • He was charged on four counts, including unlawful entry and misconduct.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A rapper is facing federal charges after his album cover featured a photo of him posing on a SWAT car during the Capitol riots.

Antionne DeShaun Brodnax, whose artist name is Bugzie the Don, released his album called “The Capital,” sharing photos of the cover on Twitter on February 8 and posting a photo on Instagram earlier in May.

The artwork on the cover featured Brodnax with a cigar in his right hand and an American flag behind him while he sits on a SWAT car. The blurred background captures pro-Trump supports storming the US Capitol as lawmakers voted to certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

A post shared by Bugzie The Don (@bugziethedon_)

Brodnax told federal investigators that he traveled to Washington, DC, to shoot a music video, according to an affidavit. The Virginia rapper claimed he followed the crowd into the Capitol building, walked around, and took pictures and videos of the architecture.

Brodnax said his friends reached out to him on social media saying they spotted him on CNN broadcast, and he left the building after about 40 minutes.

Brodnax was identified to investigators after people tipped off authorities with screenshots of him on the CNN broadcast and tagging his Twitter handle, as well as posting another photo of Brodnax sitting on the US Capitol Police SWAT truck.

He was charged on four counts, including unlawful entry and misconduct on restricted grounds and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building, according to court documents.

Brodnax is one of nearly 500 accused Capitol rioters who are facing charges in connection with the January 6 insurrection. Several other suspects have been identified in a myriad of ways, including family members turning over accused rioters, defendants testifying against each other, and even a woman helping the FBI identify an accused Capitol rioter, whom she matched with the dating app Bumble.

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A 55-year-old Capitol riot suspect was arrested after feds saw a Facebook post where he said, ‘I was there’

Capitol riot
Rioters clashed with security forces at the US Capitol on January 6.

  • John Maron Nassif, 55, is accused of bragging on Facebook about having attended the Capitol riot.
  • Federal officials say they arrested him Monday after finding posts in which he said, “I was there.”
  • If convicted, Nassif could face a year in prison, a year of probation, and a hefty $100,000 fine.
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A Florida man accused of boasting on Facebook multiple times about attending the deadly US Capitol riot was arrested Monday.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that John Maron Nassif, 55, was being charged with violent entry, disorderly conduct, and entering a restricted building or grounds without authority to do so.

“You know I was there, right?” an arrest affidavit said Nassif wrote on January 8, according to the Sentinel. “You don’t find it odd that police officer is welcoming everybody in? Considering the narrative that’s being pushed?”

Nassif is also said to have posted on January 20, weeks after the January 6 riot, acknowledging he was one of the people who breached the Capitol.

“I found myself inside the building. The Rotunda was nearly filled with people,” he’s accused of writing on Facebook, per the Sentinel. “No one was fighting or being violent. More pushing and I decided to leave.”

“It wasn’t until I was walking back that I heard a rumor someone had been shot,” the post continued. “It wasn’t till I got back to my hotel room I learned the specifics. Anyone telling you this was some type of coup etc is telling you lies.”

Nassif, if convicted, could face a year in prison, a year of probation, and a hefty fine of $100,000, the Sentinel reported.

The Capitol riot left five people, including one police officer, dead after a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters sought to disrupt Congress’ certification of his defeat to Joe Biden. So far, 458 people have been arrested in connection to the insurrection.

Suspects have been identified largely by their social-media posts, as many posed for photos that led the FBI to them. One woman even identified herself by name in an interview with a reporter posted to Twitter. The woman, who referred to herself as Elizabeth, said she’s from Knoxville, Tennessee. Her face is fully visible in the tweet.

Shortly after federal officials announced they’d investigate the riot and its cause, people were said to be scrambling to delete incriminating photos and social-media posts.

Nassif is scheduled to appear at an initial virtual hearing next week, the Sentinel reported. The court is appointing a public lawyer to defend him.

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A Democratic congressman faces $5,000 fine after Capitol police say he flouted the Capitol’s metal detector security protocol

Jim Clyburn
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

  • House Majority Whip James Clyburn faces a $5,000 fine after Capitol Police said he bypassed metal detectors.
  • If he doesn’t appeal, Clyburn would be the first Democrat to be fined for violating the security protocols.
  • Metal detectors were installed at the Capitol following the January 6 riots.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Democratic congressman was fined $5,000 for failing to complete the Capitol’s metal detector security protocol, according to a document from the Committee of Ethics released earlier this week.

A Capitol police report of the April 20 incident said House Majority James Clyburn “deliberately avoided being screened by refusing to submit to screening at the West lobby screening point.”

“Congressman Clyburn went to the restroom, came out, and continued past the officers and into the House Chamber,” according to the report.

Metal detectors were installed at the Capitol by the order of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following the January 6 riots.

A spokesperson for Clyburn’s office said in a statement to Politico that the South Carolina Democrat “respects the rules of the chamber and he disputes the characterization of this incident.” A source familiar with the incident also told Politico that Clyburn went around the metal detector to return to the House floor, but he had gone through the security less than 10 minutes earlier.

On Wednesday, acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy P. Blodgett wrote in a letter to the House Ethics Committee that Clyburn has been notified of the fine and his right to appeal within the next 30 days. Clyburn told CNN’s Manu Raju on Thursday that he plans to appeal the fine.

He would be the first Democrat to be fined for violating the Capitol’s security protocols.

Multiple GOP members have refused to comply with the security measures, including Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde.

In January, Pelosi said lawmakers will face a fine deducted from their salary for bypassing metal detectors – $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for the second. House Democrats voted in February to uphold the consequence for violation the new safety measures.

“It is tragic that this step is necessary, but the Chamber of the People’s House must and will be safe,” she said when announcing the fines.

Clyde said in February he planned to “fight” the $5,000 fine for evading metal detectors. He is forced to pay upwards of $15,000 in fines for avoiding being screened after a House Ethics Committee rejected his appeals in April, Forbes reported.

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Here’s what we know about the suspect that rammed a car into a barricade outside the Capitol, killing a USCP officer

Capitol lockdown
U.S. Capitol Police officers near a car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 2, 2021.

  • A driver rammed a car into a barricade outside the Capitol Friday, killing one USCP officer and injuring another.
  • The suspect, who multiple outlets have identified as Noah Green, was shot dead at the scene by an officer.
  • Here’s what we know about Green.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A car rammed into a barricade outside the US Capitol on Friday, injuring two Capitol Police officers, one of whom later died of his injuries.

The driver of the vehicle, who multiple outlets have identified as Noah Green, was shot dead by one of the officers after he “exited the car with a knife in hand” and “lunged” at the officers, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said at a press conference following the incident.

Authorities have yet to confirm a motive behind the incident, but Robert Contee, acting chief of the DC Metropolitan Police Department, said the incident “does not appear to be terrorism-related.”

The MPD will take over the investigation into the attack, Contee said.

Law enforcement sources said Green, 25, recently lived in Virginia, though NBC News and The New York Times reported that he was from Indiana. Green’s brother, Brendan Green, told The Washington Post Noah had recently lived in Botswana for a brief period but moved into his Virginia apartment two weeks ago after calling him crying and saying he needed help.

Friends and family told The Post they were worried about his mental health in recent years.

Green, who played football at Christopher Newport University, came to believe his teammates had drugged him with Xanax in 2019, which one former teammate told The Post was widely believed to be untrue.

Green’s brother told The Post his brother experienced symptoms, whether from drugs or mental illness, that included “hallucinations, heart palpitations, headaches, and suicidal thoughts,” as well as paranoia.

While living in Botswana, Green told his brother that “his mind was telling him to basically commit suicide” and that he had jumped in front of a car, The Post reported.

Green made several posts on his now-deleted Facebook page detailing his personal struggles in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Times reported.

“To be honest, these past few years have been tough, and these past few months have been tougher,” he wrote. “I have been tried with some of the biggest, unimaginable tests in my life. I am currently now unemployed, after I left my job, partly due to afflictions.”

Green made Facebook posts about the “end times” and the anti-Christ, according to The Times. In a March 17 post, he warned of the “last days of our world as we know it,” NBC News reported.

Weeks before Friday’s attack, Green said on social media that he thought the government was using “mind control” on him, CNN reported.

“The U.S. Government is the #1 enemy of Black people!” Green said on his Instagram account hours before the attack, according to CNN. He also wrote last week that he had suffered “terrible afflictions,” “presumably by the CIA and FBI.”

Green also posted on social media referencing the Nation of Islam, a Black separatist movement that has been designated a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Green shared videos and speeches from the movement’s current leader, Louis Farrakhan, whom the SPLC described as “an antisemite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the US government and controlling the levers of world power.” Green’s final Facebook post was on March 21, in which he posted a YouTube video titled “the crucifixion of Michael Jackson” featuring a 150-minute speech by Farrakhan.

Social media accounts belonging to Green were suspended by Facebook following the attack because they fell under the company’s “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy,” The Hill reported.

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Biden says he is ‘heartbroken’ and orders flags at the White House to be flown at half-staff in response to Capitol Police officer death

joe biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden said he was “heartbroken” after a Capitol attack left one Capitol Police officer dead.
  • A car rammed into a barricade at the Capitol, injuring two officers – one of whom is hospitalized.
  • Biden ordered the flags at the White House to be flown at half-staff to honor the officer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden ordered flags at the White House to be flown at half-staff in response to the death of a Capitol Police officer after a car rammed into a barricade outside the Capitol on Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, the Capitol went on lockdown after a vehicle rammed into an outside barricade and injured two officers. One of the officers, identified by the Capitol Police as Officer William Evans, later died from his injuries.

“Jill and I were heartbroken to learn of the violent attack at a security checkpoint on the US Capitol grounds, which killed Officer William Evans of the US Capitol Police, and left a fellow officer fighting for his life,” Biden said in a statement. “We send our heartfelt condolences to Officer Evans’ family, and everyone grieving his loss. We know what a difficult time this has been for the Capitol, everyone who works there, and those who protect it.”

The suspect was shot and killed by one of the officers after exiting “the car with a knife in hand” and “lunging” at the officers, Yogananda Pittman, the acting Capitol Police chief, said at a press conference. The National Guard was deployed to the Capitol shortly after the incident to assist Capitol Police officers who were lining the perimeter of the building.

“I want to express the nation’s gratitude to the Capitol Police, the National Guard Immediate Response Force, and others who quickly responded to this attack,” the president said in the statement. “As we mourn the loss of yet another courageous Capitol Police officer, I have ordered that the White House flags be lowered to half-mast.”

Biden’s move followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making a similar order to lower the flags at the Capitol to half-staff.

The lockdown at the Capitol was lifted about 3 p.m. local time.

Less than three months ago, pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, resulting in the deaths of five people – including two Capitol Police officers.

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Nine Capitol rioters were charged with sexual assault or had restraining orders for domestic violence: report

capitol siege riot ladder
Rioters clash with police using big ladder trying to enter Capitol building through the front doors.

  • Nine Capitol rioters have a history of violence against women, according to HuffPost.
  • Some men previously had restraining orders against them due to allegations of domestic violence.
  • At least three are military veterans, and some of the men were once charged with rape and battery. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

At least nine men who participated in the Capitol riot on January 6 have a history of exhibiting violence against women, an investigation by the Huffington Post uncovered.

The Capitol riot on January 6 left at least five people, including one police officer, dead. Members of the Proud Boys, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were reportedly present.

Organizers were emboldened by President Donald Trump’s urges to protest the results of the 2020 election with him, despite Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. While members of Congress were meeting inside the Capitol building day to certify the results, supporters organized an attempted coup and stormed the Capitol building.

Upon news that the riot breached the Capitol building, lawmakers began to shelter in place and many evacuated.

Nine men who were part of the storm were charged with acts of violence against women, HuffPost reported. Some had restraining orders taken out against them because of allegations of domestic violence.

Three of the nine men are veterans, HuffPost’s Alanna Vagianos reported. Men with militaristic pasts can create “dire consequences for women,” Vagianos reported, citing Dr. Miranda Christou, a senior fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right.

“You have forms of masculinity that depend on militarized expressions: the uniforms, the guns, the paraphernalia, the whole idea of the military structure and discipline,” Christou told HuffPost. “When the institution of the military infiltrates social life and that sense of masculinity and what makes you a man depends on that ― depends on the gun on the side of your hip ― that becomes a problem for women.”

One man, Larry Rendall Brock Jr., stormed the building carrying zip-tie handcuffs and wearing full combat gear. Brock had sent several threatening messages to his ex-wife, HuffPost reported. He was described as a “terroristic threat of family/household” during one call to the police.

larry rendall brock rioter capitol surge
Retired Air Force officer Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., wearing a combat helmet, in the Senate chamber in the US Capitol, in Washington DC on January 6, 2021.


Another man, Guy Reffitt, was spotted and photographed carrying tactical gear during the attempted coup. Reffitt in 2018 pushed his wife onto a bed and began to choke her, according to a police report obtained by HuffPost.

Guy Reffitt seen at the Capitol siege.
Guy Reffitt seen at the Capitol siege.

Mathew Capsel of Marseille, Illinois, violated a protection order after his arrest in Washington. In 2012, he had been arrested for “battery, mob action and robbery,” HuffPost reported, having allegedly struck a woman “3-4 times in the head.”

Other men who attended the riot have records marked by similar charges.

Jacob Lewis, for example, had a restraining order for domestic violence taken out against him in California, according to HuffPost. Samuel Pinho Camargo had in 2016 “intentionally caused bodily harm” to his sister.

Dominic Pezzola is a member of the Proud Boys, HuffPost reported. Police removed a shotgun from his home in 2005 after a call concerning a domestic dispute. 

Andrew Ryan Bennett also wore a Proud Boys hat entering the Capitol building, according to HuffPost. He received an 18-month prison sentence after attacking a woman at a tattoo parlor in 2003.  

Edward Hemenway served five years in prison on charges related to rape, sexual battery, and criminal confinement, according to HuffPost. He handcuffed his wife in 2004 and put duct-tape over her mouth.

And Donovan Ray Crowl had been arrested in 2005 for domestic violence charges that have since been dropped, HuffPost reported.

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Missouri man seen in Capitol riot with broken Pelosi nameplate charged weeks after his niece’s arrest

nancy pelosi
  • William Merry Jr. has been charged for his role in the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.
  • His niece, Emily Hernandez, was charged on January 15, 2021.
  • Both Merry and Hernandez were spotted in a viral clip of them holding Pelosi’s broken nameplate.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Missouri man, the uncle of a 21-year-old woman who was hit with five charges for her role in the Capitol riots, is now also facing charges for his part in the deadly insurrection.

William Merry Jr. was identified after federal authorities became aware of a video in which both he and his niece, Emily Hernandez, could be seen holding a broken piece of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s nameplate, reported NBC News.

A federal complaint against Merry Jr. was unsealed on Thursday.

Merry is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building, disorderly conduct, disruptive conduct in the Capitol buildings, impeding the conduct of government, and theft of government property, according to The Hill.

Read more: Biden’s inauguration was held in a sad, military-occupied DC. Never forget how Trump got us here.

In the video, part of an ITV News broadcast on the insurrection, Merry and Hernandez could be seen wearing a “Trump 2020” hat and holding a part of the nameplate.

At least three people contacted the FBI with Hernandez’s identity after watching the clip, including a childhood friend, the Daily Beast reported.

This resulted in her being charged on January 15.

A charging document for Merry, seen by AP, also states that several tipsters provided the FBI with information that resulted in his arrest.

Merry was taken into custody on Thursday after police searched his home, reported AP.

His lawyer, Ethan Corlija, told the news agency: “He’s not the type of individual who believes in any violence or any conduct that would harm anybody, so it’s a little atypical for him.”

He continued: “He believes he had a right to attend a rally and voice his political beliefs like we all do, but he does not in any way shape or form condone any type of violence or property destruction or any type of insurrection of the government.”

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