ST. GEORGE — Three individuals from Southern Utah are among the more than 700 indicted in federal court in connection with the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. As the cases continue to move through the court, additional details have come to light, including information contained in the indictment of a Toquerville man who was in Washington, D.C., that day.
St. George News has gathered information about where each case stands, including details about charges, incarceration and convictions.
Willard Jake Peart
Willard Jake Peart, 46, of Toquerville, was indicted on several charges on April 20, including one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing on a Capitol building and one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. He was arrested by FBI agents in St. George two days later.
The charges stem from a meeting arranged at the FBI office in Salt Lake City through Peart’s attorney, during which the defendant reportedly admitted to entering the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, and explained that he travelled to Washington, D.C., from Utah to attend a rally for President Donald Trump, after which he walked over to the U.S. Capitol Building.
When he saw other individuals entering the building, he said he followed, entering through the northwest entrance near the Senate chamber, adding that his cell phone died prior to his entrance. He told authorities he did not cause any damage to the building, which video footage later corroborated, the indictment states.
The defendant turned his cell phone over to the FBI, who later confirmed it contained only photos of the outside of the building.
He also provided a detailed sequence of his actions and movements outside and within the U.S. Capitol, and according to the indictment, he admitted his conduct was disorderly and disruptive due to the fact he chanted loudly and demonstrated inside of the building.
As such, agents stated he uttered “loud, threatening, or abusive language, or engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct” on official government property. He was formally charged and subsequently arrested April 22. Four days later, was released from federal custody.
Since then, his case has continued to move through the courts, and on Jan. 11, Peart pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing on a Capitol building, while the charge of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority was dismissed under the terms of a plea agreement. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled in the case.
Landon Kenneth Copeland
According to the federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, 34-year-old Landon Kenneth Copeland, of Apple Valley, faces several federal charges following the Jan. 6 incident, including one count each of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, knowingly entering or remaining on restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
A second indictment filed Oct. 29, contains additional charges, including one count of act of physical violence on Capitol grounds and one count of engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds and one count of inflicting bodily injury on certain officers. The indictment also alleges Copeland used a metal fence to assault, resist, impede or interfere with an employee of the United States.
The charges were filed after Copeland entered the Capitol grounds and allegedly assaulted law enforcement officers and obstructed their efforts to carry out their duties. Moreover, security footage captured during the breach and later recovered by the U.S. Capitol Police Department reportedly showed the suspect shouting at the officers as he pushed another crowd member into the police line before they were pushed back, in what prosecutors describe as a “tug-of-war” style struggle near one of the barricades.
The inflicting bodily injury charge was filed based on allegations the defendant came into physical contact with the officer to engage in another felony.
Copeland was arrested April 27 and has remained in federal custody ever since. In September, he was scheduled for a detention hearing wherein prosecutors outlined various reasons the defendant should remain in custody.
According to the detention order, prosecutors cited Copeland faced a violent felony charge, one in which he could serve up to eight years in prison, for his conduct during the alleged assault that involved a “struggle with law enforcement officers” and “grappling and pushing.”
While the defendant’s prior criminal history does not include any violent felonies or assaults, prosecutors stated that Copeland made several statements to the media following the incident that suggested a “lack of remorse” for his alleged conduct.
Additionally, the suspect was reportedly disruptive during one of the hearings held via video in May; so much so, it caused to the court to question the defendant’s competency to proceed with the hearing. Also during the hearing, the government alleged, the defendant reportedly called the pretrial services office to “demand that someone listen to him.” Prior to his arrival at court that day, the pretrial services staff donned body armor and locked the door that secured the inner offices.
The defense argued against detention, stating in the months following the May hearing the defendant has had no issues while in custody and recommended that his client be released and placed on pretrial monitoring using a tracking service.
On Sept. 16, the court ordered that Copeland remain in federal custody without bond pending trial, citing that “no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community.”
Also charged was a Dammeron Valley man, 40-year-old Brady Knowlton, who initially faced three federal charges filed in connection with the breach of the Capitol, including one count each of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and obstruction of justice/Congress.
On April 16, two charges were added, including parading, demonstrating or picketing on a Capitol building and entering or remaining in the gallery of Congress, as well as an added charge of disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.
The charges were filed following an investigation headed by the FBI, according to the complaint signed by Special Agent Jeffery Weeks.
The government alleges the defendant entered the U.S. Capitol after he was identified in several of the photographs taken both inside and along the exterior of the Capitol. Court filings also indicated the suspect appeared to have a cell phone in his left hand with the camera facing out to presumably videotape his entry into the building. The suspect was also observed on the facility’s surveillance footage inside the Senate Chamber Gallery with a cell phone in his hand “likely videotaping the scene.”
The suspect was arrested April 7 and was released five days later under pretrial conditions, one of which required that Knowlton “stay out of D.C. except for court.”
In June, the defense filed a 15-page motion to dismiss the charge of obstruction of justice/Congress based on the grounds the allegation failed to state an offense. They also argued that Knowlton was not provided with adequate information about what he was charged with, which would also fail to ensure the grand jury would be able to find evidence sufficient to prove the necessary elements of the offense.
The motion set off a slew of responses and motions that were filed over the course of several months. At the end of December, more than six months after it was filed, the motion was denied.
A status hearing was held in November, and any future proceedings have yet to be scheduled in the case.
The Jan. 6 Capital breach
To date, more than 725 people have been arrested for their alleged role in storming the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in the wake of the 2020 election, with charges ranging from obstruction of an official proceeding to assault. So far, 71 defendants have been sentenced, with more than 650 cases, including the three in Southern Utah, still moving through federal court.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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