Missouri man pleads guilty in Capitol riot after tips, cellphone records led to arrest

·5 min read
Federal court documents

A Missouri man who prosecutors say had expressed interest in joining the far-right Oath Keepers and Three Percenters militia pleaded guilty Wednesday to one misdemeanor in connection with the Capitol riot.

Jonas Buxton, 25, of St. Charles, entered a guilty plea in federal court to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

“So did you, in fact, do what the government has stated?” asked Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Bates.

“I believe so, your honor, yes,” Buxton replied.

Buxton, who told the judge he has a bachelor’s degree in physics, is the 14th of 23 Missouri residents charged in connection with the Capitol riot to plead guilty. Of those, 10 have been sentenced.

As part of a plea agreement, the government dropped three of the charges against Buxton. He agreed to allow law enforcement agents to interview him and to review his social media accounts for statements and posts related to the Capitol riot.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Franks told the court Wednesday that around Jan. 3, 2021, Buxton “exchanged text messages with an acquaintance where he expressed an interest in joining the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.”

The anti-government Oath Keepers and Three Percenters militia are accused of playing key roles in the insurrection. In January, 11 members or associates of the Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, were indicted on seditious conspiracy charges. Several have pleaded guilty.

Franks said that around Jan. 4, Buxton traveled from St. Charles to Washington, D.C., “to protest Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote and to attend a call to action rally promoted by the Three Percenters.”

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Jan. 6, Franks said, Buxton entered the Capitol through the Senate Wing doors, went to the Crypt, then exited the building at 3:21 p.m. through the same doors.

According to the charging document, Buxton was identified as a participant in the Capitol riot through cellphone records, tipsters and Capitol surveillance video.

The first tip was an online message to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center on Jan. 31, 2021, the document said.

“Tipster 1’s friend, Person 1, told Tipster 1 that Jonas Buxton participated in the United States Capitol riot and that Jonas might have been carrying an AR-15,” the document said. It added that Person 1’s husband “is one of Jonas Buxton’s family members.”

The FBI received a tip from another person on Feb. 16, 2021, who said Buxton had participated in the Capitol breach.

“Tipster 2 also reported that Buxton worked at a store in St. Charles, Missouri, but after the FBI announced arrests associated with the Capitol riot, Buxton quit his job, disappeared, and went into hiding,” the document said.

Through a search warrant issued to Google, the FBI found that Buxton’s cellphone was inside the Capitol building around the time of the insurrection, according to the document.

In early April 2021, Buxton landed at the Miami International Airport on a flight from Panama City, the document said. He was referred for an additional inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. During the inspection, the officers searched Buxton’s cellphone, taking photos of some of the screens they observed.

In one photo, the document said, Buxton was wearing a brown tactical vest with a Trump patch. One officer discovered a letter for a “general call to action” from the Three Percenters regarding the “Stop the Steal” rally, according to the document.

“The President of the United States has put out a general call for the patriots of this Nation to gather there on this date,” the Three Percenters letter said. “And this organization will be answering that call!

“This participation is called for on a National level, and all State Leaders in this organization are hereby directed to encourage the participation of any member who wishes to answer the call in this great and noble endeavor.”

The letter said members were expected to conduct themselves “in a professional, and civil, manner in accordance with the integrity of this organization.”

“We need to be entirely unthreatening in our demeanor as well as our attire,” it said, adding that “the wearing of combat uniforms, body armor, tactical vets, helmets, or any other ‘battle rattle’ is prohibited. We are not going there to fight; we are going there to peacefully protest.”

The officers at the Miami airport also found that Buxton had a second cellphone with him that had the same number as the phone agents determined was in the Capitol area on Jan. 6, according to the charging document.

In August 2021, the FBI examined Capitol surveillance video on Jan. 6 and found images of Buxton on multiple cameras throughout the building, the document said.

When he entered the Capitol, it said, Buxton was wearing a black gas mask, a black jacket with a hood, a brown tactical vest, brown pants and tan boots. Surveillance video later showed him without the gas mask and wearing a red neck gaiter.

“Buxton was also seen carrying a yellow flag,” the document said, “which helped identify him as he moved throughout the Capitol.”

Buxton was charged on Dec. 8, 2021, and arrested in St. Charles the next day.

Wednesday’s plea hearing was held via video conference in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Buxton is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10. He faces a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment, five years’ probation and a $5,000 fine. He also agreed to pay $500 restitution for damage done to the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, which the government says totaled $1.5 million.

Buxton was originally charged with four misdemeanors: entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.