Tucson-area siblings plead guilty to obstruction in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

A Tucson-area woman and her brother pleaded guilty Wednesday to obstruction during a civil disorder, among of a group of five “Proud Boys” members who toppled metal barriers and fought their way into the Capitol building during the bloody January 6 attack on Congress by supporters of Donald Trump. 

During a hearing in Washington D.C., 29-year-old Felicia Konold and 27-year-old Cory Konold agreed to enter guilty pleas on the single count of obstructing, impeding, or interfering with law enforcement officer during the commission of a civil disorder. They each face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

They will face sentencing in January.

The Konolds were arrested in February 2021 and faced five charges for their actions that day—part of a group five who worked together during the riot, putting themselves at the vanguard of the crowd, prosecutors said. This included three members of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.

The group pushed past police barriers, interfered with arrests, and blocked a metal barrier from sealing one of the Capitol’s entrances, leaving U.S. Capitol police unable to defend the building against thousands of Trump supporters who stormed into Congress with the aim of undermining the U.S. election.

On January 6, Congress was holding a joint session to formally count the votes of the Electoral College in the November 2020 election. A crowd of thousands who gathered for a rally called by Trump on the National Mall overwhelmed police and smashed their way into the Capitol building, forcing the evacuation of members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, along with Vice President Mike Pence. 

During the incident, rioters clashed with police, assaulting 81 members of the Capitol Police and 58 members of the Metropolitan Police Department. One Capitol police officer was fatally injured, and another had his eye gouged out. Another officer lost fingers. A woman was shot and killed as she attempted to climb through a window to where members of Congress were barricaded near the House chamber.

The bloody incident failed in stopping the vote, which was completed later that day. However, fallout from the event led to the second impeachment trial of ex-president Donald Trump.

In the 33 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 1,100 individuals have
been charged in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of
the Capitol, including more than 400 individuals charged with felonies,
including assaulting or impeding law enforcement. Federal officials
said they are continuing their investigation into the insurrection.

The FBI identified the Konold siblings based on photos and videos taken during
the riot, as well as social media posts and cellphone location data.

The FBI also linked Felicia Konold to the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys. Created in 2016, the Proud Boys have become inextricably linked to Trump, and worked with other hate groups at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Just days before the failed insurrection, the Proud Boys attacked a Black church in Washington, D.C.

As the FBI agent wrote in an affidavit, the Proud Boys “sometimes engage in violence against individuals whom they perceive as threats to their values.”

Along with the Konolds, federal prosecutors also charged William
Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne, and Louis Enrique Colon. They were each
arrested in Kansas City, Mo., on the same day as the Konolds, according to a Justice
Department website that tracks cases stemming from violent insurrection.

Kuehne pleaded guilty to obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder in front of a judge in September, and
Chrestman pleaded guilty obstruction of an official proceeding and
threatening a federal officer on Oct. 16. Both men will have sentencing
hearings in January.

Meanwhile, Colon’s case is ongoing.

A witness, identified only as W-1, provided a compilation of posts from Felicia Konold’s Snapchat to the FBI. In a video posted to Snapchat, Felicia Konold said, “I never could [unintelligible] have imagined having that much of an influence on the events that unfolded today. Dude, people were willing to follow.” 

“We fucking did it,” she said. 

She also said on Snapchat that she was “recruited into a fucking chapter from Kansas City,” and she displayed a two-sided “challenge coin” the FBI said “appears to have markings that designate it as belonging to the Kansas City Proud Boys.”

Agent tracked the movements of Konold and her brother on January 6, showing that before 1 p.m., she was marching with major members of the Proud Boys, including Joseph Biggs and Ethan Nordean. Later, video shows Chrestman speaking with Nordean. Felicia Konold would spend much of the time during the attack on Congress at Chrestmen’s elbow.

Around 1 p.m. that day, the Konolds, along with Chrestman, gathered near the pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, where a waist-high metal barrier separated the crowd from a small number of U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI agent wrote. Within minutes, the crowd “overwhelmed the U.S. Capitol officers,” he wrote, toppling metal barricades and advancing forward. “Within minutes, Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold had moved past the barrier and placed themselves at or near the front of the crowd at the next police barrier.”

“Just as the first police line was being overwhelmed, the defendant — along with co-defendants Chrestman and Cory Konold — made her way to the front of the crowd and became one of the first rioters to trample over the toppled barricades,” wrote prosecutors in the plea agreements. “Along with other members of the crowd, the defendant then made her way with Chrestman and Cory Konold past multiple subsequent lines of barricades and onto the Capitol’s Lower West Plaza, inside the restricted area.”

For more than an hour, the Konolds remained in the area despite orders from police and salvos of “less-lethal” weapons, including pepper spray and remained close to Chrestman, who “made various efforts to instigate the crowd and oppose police efforts to quell the riot.” At one point, when officers attempted to arrest one man, Chrestman yelled “Don’t let them take him!” 

Felicia Konold also shouted “Let him go!” She also helped her brother put on a helmet looted from a Capitol police officer to “withstand the crowd control measures police were employing,” according to their plea agreement. He brought the helmet home with him.

As the crowd worked to break through the line of police, Felicia Konold—along with Cory Konold and Chrestman—pushed back, yelling “Fight for America! Fight for America!’

Later the group used chairs and a trash can to keep Capitol police from lowering a metal barrier. 

“Badly outnumbered,” several Capitol police officers retreated from the crowd and set up behind a large, sliding-door barrier. As they attempted to close the barrier, the crowd jammed chairs and a trash can in its way. With her hand on the door Felicia Konold watched as “police attempted to close the door and repel the rioters, who were throwing objects and spraying chemical irritants at police.”

“Ultimately the rioters prevailed, and the officers retreated further into the building,” federal prosecutors wrote.

The group “not only moved closely to each other in proximity, but also appeared to gesture and communicate to one another both before and while inside the Capitol in an apparent effort to coordinate their efforts.”

After the events, Felicia Konold made a post to social media, writing she “never could have imagined having that much of an influence on the events
that unfolded today. Dude, people were willing to follow. You fucking
lead, and everyone had my back, dude… We fucking did it.” 

She later wrote in a diary the crowd “took our capitol back.”

“The
United States took a stand a majority peacefully pushed back 6+ lines of
security and persisted through rubber bullets, chemical sprays, baton
beating, physical resistance and doors,” she wrote. “And occupied the Capitol
building in Washington since the British hundreds of years ago.”

The siblings agreements were linked, requiring both to enter guilty
pleas. As part of the agreement, Felicia Konold agreed to let federal
agents review social media accounts for posts made before and around
Jan. 6, 2021 and interview her regarding the events.

On Monday, 51-year-old Jacob Zerkle pleaded guilty to assaulting police officer and civil disorder for his actions during the bloody attempt to seize the U.S. Capitol.

Zerkle, a resident of Bowie, Ariz., east of Tucson, was dressed in a
heavy leather jacket as he battled with police on the West Lawn of the
Capitol after pushing past temporary barriers and green snow-fencing and
signage, during an effort by Trump supporters to storm into Congress
with the aim of undermining the election. He was arrested in Arizona
last March and faced seven charges, including assaulting, resisting, or
impeding officers, civil disorder, engaging in physical violence in a
restricted building or grounds, and acts of physical violence on Capitol
grounds.

The FBI identified Zerkle from the footage and compared the images to his Arizona driver’s license photo. In October 2021, an agent interviewed Zerkle at his home in Bowie, a small hamlet on Interstate 10 east of Willcox. Zerkle told the agent that he went to Washington D.C. on Jan. 2 with a family member, to “protest election integrity,” and that he did not attend Trump’s speech, because “he went to the Capitol to protest, not to listen to speeches.”

Zerkle admitted that he “pushed into some police officers and that he probably did something dumb” during the riot on January 6, and told the FBI agent that he was “shoved into the police and was trying to protect himself, but did not intend to assault a police officer,” according to court records.

The Konolds joins the ranks of other Capitol rioters from Arizona, which includes Jacob Angeli, who became well-known in the QAnon conspiracy movement for his remarkable sartorial choices. Angeli often went shirtless at events, wore leather breaches, and was capped with a furry, horned headdress. When he entered the Capitol building, he was carrying an American flag attached to a spear, and had his face painted red, white and blue.

Last November, Angeli was sentenced to 41 months in prison after a federal judge called him “the epitome of the riot.”