Citadel cadet pleads guilty to joining Jan. 6 Capitol riot
The State October 26, 2022
A Citadel cadet from York County, S.C., has pleaded guilty to joining the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot that erupted after a protest over the 2020 election results.
Elias Irizarry, 20, pleaded guilty to entering and remaining in a restricted area or grounds, according to testimony Wednesday in a court hearing from Washington.
The charge is a misdemeanor.
At the time of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Irizarry was in his freshman year at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, and about to start his second semester. Since then, he has been an honors student, testimony showed.
Irizarry said in court Wednesday he is a junior in college.
In a statement to to the Rock Hill Herald newspaper Wednesday, The Citadel confirmed that school officials are aware of the guilty plea and said Irizarry remains a student. However, the school cited privacy laws when it declined to address any potential disciplinary measures that could come as a result of the guilty plea in court.
“Mr. Irizarry is currently enrolled at The Citadel,” the statement said. “The college is aware of the plea agreement; however, due to FERPA, we are unable to comment or speculate on any potential disciplinary proceedings.”
Irizarry, the son of soap opera actor Vincent Irizarry, could face as much as a year in prison when sentenced under the law, U.S. District Court Judge Judge Tanya Chutkan said in court Wednesday.
But lawyers in the case said in court Wednesday the cap agreed to by prosecutors and Irizarry as part of the negotiated plea would be zero to a maximum of six months in prison.
He will be sentenced March 15, court officials said.
Case evidence included photos taken by Irizarry
The evidence against Irizarry included photographs of him inside and outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Federal investigators said in documents that Irizarry took pictures inside the Capitol and had a metal pipe in his hand at the time. Irizarry was photographed on top of the Capitol.
Chutkan said in court Wednesday that Irizarry went with co-defendants Elliot Bishai and Grayson Sherrill to hear a speech by former President Donald Trump that challenged his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.
Irizarry admitted that he went past barricades and through fencing outside the Capitol.
“Did you know those measures were meant to keep you out?” Chutkan asked Irizarry Wednesday in court.
“Yes, your honor,” Irizarry said in court.
Irizarry admitted he entered the Capitol through a broken window, climbed on statues, and took pictures along with others. He then left the Capitol after around 20 minutes.
In July, Bishai, a friend with whom Irizarry traveled to Washington and entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, was sentenced to two weeks in federal prison after pleading guilty to the same charge of entering a restricted area.
Bishai is also from York County.
Both were in JROTC at Nation Ford High School in younger years and were part of a Civil Air Patrol unit in North Carolina at the time of the incident.
Chutkan did not address the riot Wednesday in court.
But in a May 3 hearing on Bishai and Irizarry’s case, Chutkan told Bishai that on Jan. 6, 2021, he was part of a “mob (that) almost caused the halt of the transfer of power in this country in what’s tantamount to an attempt to overthrow this government.”
In that May hearing, the judge said Irizarry, “may not have carried a weapon, he may not have stolen anything, he may not have assaulted a police officer, but he’s alleged to have been part of that mob.”
The charges against Sherrill, a third defendant from Gaston County, N.C., in the case, remains pending.
In August, over Chutkan’s objections, a federal appeals court panel gave Irizarry permission to go to Estonia for a Citadel-sponsored three-week study abroad program.
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