WASHINGTON (AP) — A Proud Boys member who joined others from the far-right group in attacking the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty on Monday to obstructing the joint session of Congress for certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
William Chrestman, 49, of Kansas, also pleaded guilty to threatening to assault a federal officer during the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2023.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly is scheduled to sentence Chrestman for his two felony convictions on Jan. 12. Estimated sentencing guidelines for his case recommended a prison term ranging from four years and three months to five years and three months.
Chrestman brought an axe handle, gas mask, helmet and other tactical gear when he traveled to Washington, D.C., with other Proud Boys members from the Kansas City, Kansas, area, On Jan. 6, he marched to the Capitol grounds with dozens of other Proud Boys leaders, members and associates.
Chrestman and other Proud Boys moved past a toppled metal barricade and joined other rioters in front of another police barrier. He shouted a threat at officers and yelled at others in the crowd to stop police from arresting another rioter, according to prosecutors.
Facing the crowd, Chrestman shouted, “Whose house is this?”
“Our house!” the crowd replied.
“Do you want your house back?” Chrestman asked.
“Yes!” they responded.
“Take it!” Chrestman yelled.
Chrestman used his axe handle to prevent a barrier from lowering and closing in the tunnels under the Capitol.
Chrestman “assumed a de facto leadership role” for the Proud Boys from Kansas City, leading them around the Capitol building and grounds and serving as “the primary coordinator” of their efforts to disrupt police, prosecutors said in a February 2021 court filing.
“Encouraging others to do the same, the defendant impeded law enforcement’s efforts to protect the Capitol, and aided the armed, hourslong occupation of the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionists,” they wrote.
Chrestman was captured on video communicating with Proud Boys chapter leader Ethan Nordean outside the Capitol. A jury convicted Nordean and three other Proud Boys, including former national chairman Enrique Tarrio, of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a plot to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
Chrestman, a U.S. Army veteran, has been jailed since his arrest in February 2021.
“It’s been a long process, your honor,” his attorney, Edward Martin, told the judge.
A grand jury indicted Chrestman on six counts, including a conspiracy charge.
Prosecutors said Chrestman may have tried to conceal his participation in the riot by disposing of clothes and gear he wore on Jan. 6 and giving his firearms to somebody else to hold.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ordered Chrestman to be detained while awaiting trial. Kelly upheld her ruling in July 2021.
Chrestman was charged with five other Proud Boys members and associates.
A co-defendant, Ryan Ashlock, was sentenced last November to 70 days of incarceration after pleading guilty to a trespassing charge. Two others, Christopher Kuehne and Louis Enrique Colon, pleaded guilty to civil disorder charges and await separate sentencing hearings. Two co-defendants from Arizona — siblings Felicia Konold and Cory Konold — have change-of-plea hearings set for Nov. 1.
More than 1,100 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Approximately 60 of them have been identified as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates.