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Port Charlotte man convicted on felony, other charges for actions during Jan. 6 Capitol breach

Screen shot showing John Joseph Richter, 39, of Port Charlotte (red circle), entering the Senate Chamber on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, 2021.
Federal court documents
WGCU file
Screen shot showing John Joseph Richter, 39, of Port Charlotte (red circle), entering the Senate Chamber on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, 2021.

A Port Charlotte man has been found guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia of multiple felony and misdemeanor offenses following a bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss.

A bench trial refers to the type of trial that does not involve a jury but is conducted by the judge alone, in which the judge both decides the facts of the case and applies the law.

The charges against John Joseph Richter, 39, of Port Charlotte, related to his conduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol. His actions and those of others disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the 2020 presidential election.

Richter was convicted of the felony offense of obstruction of an official proceeding. In addition to the felonies, he was convicted of misdemeanor offenses of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, entering and remaining on the floor of Congress, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

Judge Moss will sentence Richter on Aug. 9, 2024.

Also being convicted Tuesday was Joseph Irwin, 43, of Cecilia, Kentucky.

According to court documents, in the weeks and days leading to Jan. 6, 2021, Richter and Irwin planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on January 6th with the intent to obstruct the certification of the Electoral College vote.

In one text message, Richter sent Irwin a photo discussing the Electoral College certification process on January 6 and former Vice President Mike Pence's role in the certification.

As the two men discussed their travel plans to Washington, D.C., they discussed the potential for violence and their roles. In one message, Irwin asked Richter, "Are we go[ing] open militia or innocent/ready bystander." Richter responded, "Well I think we are gonna be in a huge crowd mostly. So we will have to be opportunists most likely. Gnome sayin? I like the ready bystander wildcard approach myself."

The two also discussed bringing supplies to Washington, D.C., such as flagpoles, goggles, battery banks, and full-face gas masks.

Photo of ohn Joseph Richter, 39, of Port Charlotte, from federal court documents.
Department of Justice
Photo of ohn Joseph Richter, 39, of Port Charlotte, from federal court documents.

In one message, Richter circulated a photo of a metal pointed flagpole he intended to bring to Washington, D.C. Richter explained that he would bring the all-black American flag because the "All black flag means no quarter will be given. It's time to do patriot s—." Irwin also discussed bringing a wooden pole that he inscribed with a black American flag; he said that his "wooden stick is heavy as f—."

On Jan. 6, 2021, the two men attended the "Stop the Steal" rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and afterward marched to the U.S. Capitol building, carrying their previously discussed poles in hand. Richter carried a black American flag with a pointed metal tip, and Irwin carried a heavy wooden pole.

After reaching the Capitol grounds, Irwin and Richter ascended to the Upper West Terrace and approached a group of police officers that had just arrived on Capitol grounds. Irwin approached the police officers while wielding his wooden pole at them. Irwin repeatedly yelled at the officers to "Go Home!!" and then aggressively smashed his pole on the ground in a threatening manner at the police officers, ultimately breaking his wooden pole into two pieces.

Next, Irwin and Richter made their way to the Senate Wing Door. Richter disassembled his pole into two pieces and handed one piece of the pole—with a metal tip—to Irwin.

From there, the two continued wielding their poles as they watched rioters break into the building and scream, "LET US IN! LET US IN! LET US IN!" Richter and Irwin watched as other rioters smashed the windows and broke into the Capitol through the Parliamentarian's Door. At approximately 2:43 p.m. – just minutes after the Parliamentarian's door had been violently breached – defendant Richter and Irwin entered the Capitol building, banging their poles on the ground.

The two men joined a mob of rioters that progressed through the Capitol and eventually made their way to the Senate Floor, where the former Vice President and members of Congress had not long before evacuated under an emergency order.

As the rioters flooded onto the Senate Floor and rustled through the Vice President's desk, Irwin banged his flagpole on the ground and yelled at the top of his lungs, "THIS IS OURS RIGHT HERE! THIS IS OUR HOUSE! THIS IS WHAT THE COURT DO WHEN THE COURT TAKE IT! DON'T GIVE IT BACK TO THEM NOW!"

While still on the Senate Floor, after cheering with other rioters in celebration of "taking" the chamber, the two men sat at Senators' desks and had their photograph taken by a fellow rioter while brandishing their poles.

The men left the Senate Chamber and the Capitol building only after Metropolitan Police Department Officers eventually directed them out. After their participation in the Capitol riot, the two continued to celebrate their success in halting the Congressional proceeding. Court documents say that Irwin framed the sharp wooden pole in a shadow box and referred to it as a "Relic."

The FBI arrested Joseph Irwin on Aug. 17, 2021, in Cecilia, Kentucky, and John Richter on March 2, 2023, in Port Charlotte.

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