Montana man pleads not guilty in US Capitol breach
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man who federal prosecutors have said was among the first people to breach the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6 has pleaded not guilty to several charges and is asking the judge to release him from custody pending trial so he can provide for his family.
Jerod Hughes, 36, of East Helena entered his not guilty pleas Thursday during a video hearing, NBC Montana reported.
Prosecutors said Hughes and his brother, Joshua Hughes, climbed through a broken window and were among the first 10 rioters to enter the Capitol. Jerod Hughes helped kick open a door to allow other rioters inside, prosecutors said.
The brothers directly followed a man who pursued Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman up the stairs and later found their way to the Senate floor, court records said.
Jerod Hughes’ attorney asked that his client be freed to return to work to help support his family, including his wife, who is disabled and facing surgery. The attorney noted Hughes surrendered to authorities after returning home and before the FBI was looking for him.
The petition argues Hughes and his brother traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest what he believed was a “stolen election,” and that “he acted out of conscience, albeit one that was manipulated by deception.” His attorney also argued Hughes “did not cause any damage to the Capitol buildings or grounds or commit any acts of violence.”
Prosecutors countered that Hughes is charged with nine crimes, including destruction of property, which qualifies as a federal act of terrorism. They also argue his concern for his wife’s health and well-being did not prevent him from traveling to Washington.
The judge has not ruled on Hughes’ petition.