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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

N.C. man sentenced to 7 months for role in Capitol riot

Johnny Harris of Shelby, North Carolina, was sentenced to seven months in prison on June 2, 2023, for his role in the Capitol riot. (FBI/TNS)  (FBI/FBI/TNS)
By Michael Gordon Charlotte Observer

A Charlotte, North Carolina-area man who went on camera inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to utter threats with abusive language was on the receiving end Friday of a seven-month sentence handed down by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss’s ruling in his Washington, D.C., courtroom made Johnny Harris of Shelby the 11th North Carolinian sentenced to prison for crimes committed during the riot.

Harris pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. Many defendants charged with similar crimes tied to the violence on Jan. 6, 2021, have spent little time in confinement or none at all.

Among North Carolinians convicted of misdemeanor offenses, the sentences have ranged from nine days to 90.

In Harris’ case, however, prosecutors took a harder line, calling on Moss to hand down the maximum sentence of a year in confinement.

Harris’ defense attorney, Sam Randall of Charlotte, had asked for probation.

Moss, a judicial appointee of Barack Obama, split the difference. The judge said he would recommend Harris serve his time in a North Carolina facility to be closer to his family and friends, according to Randall.

He will report to prison sometime after Sept. 1. Harris also will serve 12 months of supervised release and pay $500 in restitution.

According to prosecutors, Harris made it clear early on that he was coming to Washington on Jan. 6 and was prepared to do what was necessary to keep President Donald Trump in office.

“TRUMP or WAR,” he wrote on Facebook days before the attack.

Once inside the Capitol, Harris was not violent – though Harris did shove a police officer at one point after trying to pick up his dropped cell phone. Nor was he in a hurry to leave. In fact, Harris was among the last members of the mob forced from the building by police, prosecutors say.

Harris also served at times as an informal front man for the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the building to stop congressional certification of Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden.

Carrying a megaphone and an American flag while wearing a Trump bandana and a red, white and blue shirt, Harris popped up again and again in front of TV cameras or on video streams to make the case that the election had been stolen.

“Excuse me, what are you trying to do?” a French TV reporter asked him in one exchange inside the Capitol Rotunda.

“Kick ass and take names later!” Harris said, then added:

“We’re not here to hurt anybody … We’re just here to let you know that there are a million of us or more out there who will come through this building if necessary.”

Asked later on camera if he hoped to disrupt the congressional vote to confirm Biden’s victory, Harris first said no, then pivoted.

“Oh yeah, we’re trying to upset their decision. We’re trying to make them make the right decision,” he said.

“Donald Trump won this election. By far. We’re not gonna let it be stolen from us. Donald Trump is our president and he will be re-elected, and the rest of them will go to jail.”

Later that month, according to his prosecutors, Harris told the FBI that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing.

On Friday, however, Harris expressed remorse to the judge for what he had done, his attorney said.

According to defense filings in the case, Harris had been “swept up in the hype” of Trump’s lies about the stolen election. He also believed that there would be no consequences for his actions due to the few arrests that had been made during Black Lives Matter protests the previous year, Randall wrote.

Shelby, Harris’ hometown, is 45 miles from Charlotte and the county seat of Cleveland County, which Trump carried in 2020 by a 2 to 1 margin.

Family members, neighbors and friends wrote letters to the judge on Harris’ behalf, including a woman who attested to Harris’ character after he stepped in to care for a colony of feral cats.

Harris is among 28 North Carolinians federally charged in connection with the Capitol violence, which has been tied to at least five deaths and injuries to at least 140 police officers.

Overall, more than 1,000 arrests have been made.