A Missouri locksmith who breached the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack dressed in a Revolutionary War costume was found guilty in federal court Friday of four misdemeanor counts.
Isaac Yoder, 34, of Nevada in southwestern Missouri, had turned down the government’s offer to plead guilty to one count and instead asked for a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25.
The charges each carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
“Yoder did more than simply go inside, however,” Lamberth wrote in his verdict. “As described above, Yoder made a speech to other rioters atop a pile of broken furniture, walked around the hallways and Crypt in colonial gear with a flag and sword, and allowed other rioters to take photos with him, all adding to the chaos and further impeding efforts of the police officers to clear the building.”
The verdict challenges an argument tossed around by Yoder and conservative Republicans — including U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — that those who entered the Capitol that day might not have known they were doing anything wrong or that the building was closed.
In testimony at his March trial, Yoder said he had never been to Washington, D.C., and that he was unaware the Capitol had been closed for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He entered the building through a fire exit and said police were not actively preventing him from going inside.
Lamberth, the senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, didn’t accept that version of events and said Yoder “knowingly” broke several laws.
“Once inside the Capitol, he drew attention to himself by shouting to other rioters about how Trump supporters had ‘cave[d]’ on the certification, an overtly political message,” he wrote. “Yoder also knew that he was a highly visible member of the mob.”
Lamberth also repeatedly noted in his verdict that Yoder decided to go into the Capitol after his brothers told him that former Vice President Mike Pence “folded” by refusing to block the certification of the election and that other rioters were fighting with police.
Yoder made a speech inside the Capitol building where he said, “we’ve been so weak. We’ve lost any kind of credibility because all we do is cave” but also urged people not to riot or “do bad things.” In a video of his speech presented during the trial, Yoder stopped talking after it appeared no one was listening.
Yoder’s argument matches one often used by hard-line Republicans as they have attempted to downplay what happened on Jan. 6, saying that many of those who entered the building were peaceful and may not have known they were breaking the law.
But the sheer mass of people who entered the building that day stalled the certification of the 2020 presidential election for hours and forced members of Congress, staff and the vice president into secure locations in the building.
The verdict comes days after Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison on sedition charges for helping organize the storming of the building that day. Both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who this week announced his candidacy for president — have said they would pardon people found guilty for their roles in the Capitol riot.
Yoder, owner of Yoder Lock and Key, was charged in July 2021 with four misdemeanors: entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; violent entry and disorderly conduct in the Capitol; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol.
He turned down an offer by the government last year to plead guilty to the parading count and requested a jury trial. Then he asked for a change of venue to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
After Lamberth denied that request, Yoder waived his right to a jury trial and asked for the bench trial. Lamberth conducted the trial and decided the case.
Authorities became aware of Yoder on Feb. 26, 2021, when the FBI received an online tip, according to the probable cause affidavit filed in his case. The tipster said a man named Yoder who worked at a locksmith business in Nevada had stormed the Capitol in a George Washington costume. FBI agents interviewed Yoder on March 16 in Joplin and he admitted that he had entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the affidavit.
Yoder told agents that he’d gone to the Capitol after attending a pro-Trump rally with family members, the document said. A review of recordings showed that Yoder entered the Capitol at 3:14 p.m. and exited at 3:32 p.m., the affidavit said. While inside, people stopped to have their picture taken with him.
Originally published May 26, 2023 at 12:05 PM