Months of regurgitating Trump’s election lies culminated in the first Jan. 6 rioter breaching the Capitol

The trial of the first rioter who breached the U.S. Capitol is currently underway in Washington. Federal prosecutors are presenting compelling evidence that he not only believed but also echoed the falsehoods propagated by Republican politicians, certain conservative news outlets, and former President Donald Trump regarding the outcome of the 2020 election.

Michael Sparks, an employee at an electronics and components plant in Kentucky prior to the Capitol attack, is now facing six charges. These charges include felony obstruction of an official proceeding and obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder. It is worth noting that Sparks was the initial rioter to enter the building. He accomplished this by jumping through a broken window that Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola had smashed on the Senate side. Once inside, Sparks joined the mob that pursued a lone Capitol Police officer up the stairs, as members of the Senate fled from the chamber.

Sparks has entered a plea of not guilty and is opting to take his case to trial. However, the defense does not contest the fact that he is the person captured in numerous images and photographs from that day. Interestingly, Sparks proactively contacted law enforcement following the incident upon learning that he was wanted for questioning.

Sparks reportedly shouted at the officers as he joined the crowd in pursuit of Eugene Goodman up the stairs towards the Senate chamber. “This is our America!” he exclaimed.

The case began on Monday, with the impaneling of a jury. Testimony in the case commenced the following day, presided over by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly. As a Trump appointee, Judge Kelly has presided over several Jan. 6 trials and has already handed down the harshest sentence to date, sentencing former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio to 22 years in federal prison.

Joseph Howe, Sparks’ co-defendant and former colleague, reached a plea agreement last year. In his admission, he confessed to various acts during the Capitol attack. These included grabbing a police shield, seizing a bike rack barricade, stealing a police baton, pushing a Capitol Police officer, deploying a fire extinguisher that struck another officer in the face, and being part of the mob that overwhelmed law enforcement and entered the building. As a result, Howe received a federal prison sentence of over four years.

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During the testimony in Sparks’ case on Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Steven Nestoryak was questioned by a federal prosecutor regarding the bureau’s investigation into Sparks. Nestoryak, who has been involved in the investigation for approximately a year, elaborated on various social media posts and text messages that were linked to Sparks. These posts and messages demonstrated how Sparks became radicalized after repeatedly encountering false claims about the 2020 election that Trump and others propagated.

The evidence clearly shows that Sparks and his fellow rioters, who were Trump supporters, were the ones who first breached the Capitol, despite false claims that they were members of “antifa.” During his testimony, Nestoryak presented social media posts that demonstrated Sparks’ unwavering belief in Trump’s victory, even before all the results were in. It is important to note that Sparks had been an active Facebook user since 2016.

According to Sparks, Trump’s victory in the election would not be a close call, but rather a landslide. As the election results were still being collected, Sparks confidently predicted that Trump would secure 293 electoral college votes. However, as we now know, Trump ended up with 232 electoral college votes, while Joe Biden received 306 and ultimately won the presidency.

In the aftermath of Election Day 2020, Sparks confidently asserted, “When all the dust settles, Trump will emerge as the winner. Calm down everyone, Trump is going to be your president!”

However, Sparks’ perspective started to shift after Biden was declared the winner of the election on November 7, 2020, according to prosecutors.

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Sparks expressed his anticipation by stating, “Imagine if 70 million people took up arms.”

“We, the people, stand with you, a strong force of 70 million. Inform us if there is a need to take up arms,” he expressed in another message.

On November 9th, Sparks became a member of Parler, a now-defunct social media platform that was popular among right-wing users. He immediately began following some of his favorite right-wing media personalities, including Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Tucker Carlson, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. In his inaugural post on the site, Sparks expressed his support for Trump’s 2020 campaign by writing, “Trump 2020.”

On Facebook, Sparks shared a story by Paul Bedard, a columnist from the Washington Examiner. The story outlined claims made by the Trump campaign regarding alleged fraud in Nevada. However, these claims were later debunked.

Sparks arrived in Washington on December 12, 2020, to witness and film a speech given by “MyPillow Guy” Mike Lindell. Recently, a judge had ordered Lindell to pay $5 million to a fellow Trump supporter who successfully debunked his claims about the 2020 election through Lindell’s “Prove Mike Wrong” challenge.

On December 17, 2020, Sparks shared a story sourced from the right-wing publication, Epoch Times. The article echoes the claims made by Sidney Powell, the former attorney for Donald Trump who holds far-right views. Recently, Powell pleaded guilty in the Georgia election interference case led by District Attorney Fani Willis. Furthermore, Powell seems to be implicated as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the election interference case against Trump by Jack Smith. An indictment states that Trump privately admitted to others that Powell’s assertions of election fraud sounded “crazy.”

On December 20, 2020, just a day after Trump’s widely discussed tweet encouraging his supporters to gather in Washington on January 6th, Sparks took to social media to discuss Rep. Matt Gaetz’s plan to challenge Electoral College votes. Gaetz had outlined this plan at a Turning Points USA summit in Florida. As per the records on Facebook, Sparks’ rhetoric was becoming increasingly intense.

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In late December 2020, Sparks expressed his discontent with the current administration, saying, “Drag these clowns out of office.” On Christmas Eve, he further voiced his frustration, stating, “How about we the people drag you out by your face,” accompanied by images of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

According to prosecutors, Sparks openly called for “war” on Parler at the start of 2021.

“The votes were stolen. You will have time to fight for what you believe in,” Sparks expressed passionately on Facebook that day. “As for me, I firmly believe in the constitution, so I will fight for it till the end. Trump is my president.”

Many defendants from the January 6th incident have admitted that they were misled and that the evidence claimed by Trump and his allies regarding the 2020 election never actually surfaced. However, it seems that Sparks has not had this realization even almost a year after the attack. It is unclear what his current beliefs are about the 2020 election.

“They are attempting to conceal everything, but it’s important to note that there are numerous ongoing court cases,” Sparks expressed on January 9, 2022. “I genuinely believe that these cases will ultimately uncover the extent of the election fraud.”

Ryan J. Reilly, a justice reporter for NBC News, brings his expertise to the table.

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