Federal jury finds South Carolina man guilty of 5 charges in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

A 12-person federal jury on Monday found a South Carolina man guilty of five criminal offenses for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

Derek Gunby, of Anderson County, was found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, parading or picketing in a Capitol building and entering or remaining in a restricted building, according to court records.

Gunby, who is in his early 40s, was the first South Carolinian of the 23 arrested so far from the Palmetto State to seek a jury trial on Capitol storming-related charges. Eighteen have pleaded guilty. Charges against four others are pending.

Gunby is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1 and is free on his own recognizance until then, according to court records.

The Capitol was closed to the public on Jan. 6, 2021, while Congress certified the electoral vote count that gave now-President Joe Biden the victory over former President Donald Trump. Rioters overwhelmed police barricades, injured numerous officers and forced members of Congress to flee.

Charging documents in Gunby’s case allege he was a supporter of former President Donald Trump who went to the Capitol Jan. 6 because he wanted to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 2020, election win.

“Gunby believed that fraud occurred during the 2020 presidential election and that the election was stolen. Gunby held this belief so fervently that he left the Stop the Steal rally on the Ellipse and joined the mob that stormed the Capitol in order to obstruct the certification of the Electoral College vote count,” prosecutors said in a pre-trial brief outlining their case.

“Gunby believed that patriots could not ‘depend on Mike Pence to do the right thing in certifying this vote’ and needed to take matters into their own hands. Gunby joined a raucous and violent mob that overran the police and breached the U.S. Capitol building. He did so knowing that his actions were illegal,” the prosecutors’ brief said.

“Gunby stayed on restricted Capitol grounds for over two hours. He watched and recorded some of the worst violence that took place on Jan. 6,” the brief said.

The documents were based largely on photos, surveillance videos, statements to the FBI and a video Gunby posted on his Facebook page.

Gunby had livestreamed a video during the riot in which he said in part, “We are at a point now in this county where they’re going to listen to us. They have to listen to us. Your congressional leaders are not afraid of you. They are more afraid of the Chinese Communist party. They’re more afraid of left wing media. And they are more afraid of ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter than they are of the American patriot, the American conservative, the American libertarian. The person who is on the right side of the Constitution.”

Gunby’s attorney, John Pierce of Woodland Hills, California, submitted a trial brief in which he said that Gunby was being prosecuted for believing in an “anti-government” ideology.

“Gunby submits that his alleged ideology is (1) consistent with that of the vast majority of Americans, (2) consistent with the proper principles of America’s constitutional order and history, and (3) to be extolled rather than condemned or criticized,” Pierce wrote in a defense trial brief.

After prosecutors put up two days’ of witness testimony last week, Pierce argued that the government had failed to prove its case and the charges should be dismissed.

Gunby had a right to be in the Capitol, Pierce wrote, and besides, he believed what former President Donald Trump said about the election being stolen. Any statements Gunby made were not crimes and protected by the First Amendment, Pierce claimed.

”Gunby arrived at the Capitol on Jan. 6 at the behest of the President of the United States. And all evidence shows Gunby relied in good faith on claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen. Even if Gunby was wrong about the election being stolen, he had a right to his political opinion and to express it,” Pierce wrote.

“Indeed, Gunby did what every American should do if they believe an election was stolen. Gunby went to D.C. to attend a speech by the President, and followed the President’s suggestions regarding going to the Capitol building. Gunby was engaging in his civic duty as a concerned American,” Pierce wrote.

Trump’s claims that the November 2020 election was stolen have repeatedly been proven false. Approximately 60 lawsuits alleging election fraud in battleground states were dismissed. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to Biden’s vote. Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, said the FBI had failed to turn up evidence that fraud had affected the 2020 election. Recounts have been held in swing states like Arizona and Georgia that failed to affect the outcome.

Trump currently faces criminal charges in state court in Georgia and in federal court in Washington connected to his false claims of a stolen election.

In Georgia state court, an indictment charges that Trump and others “unlawfully conspired” to change Georgia’s presidential election tallies after the November 2020 election.

In the District of Columbia, a federal indictment charges that after the November 2020 election, Trump and close allies conspired to mount a secret campaign to overturn Biden’s victory in the presidential election. He knowingly made false claims about voter fraud and mounted various schemes to undermine the legitimate results. Trump urged people to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell,” the indictment said.

Federal Judge Paul Friedman presided. Besides Pierce, Gunby’s other attorney was Roger Roots. Prosecutors were Kyle McWaters, Shanai Watson, and Samuel White.