“We want a civil war to be clear”: The first defendant found guilty of breaching the Capitol on January 6

The image shows Michael Sparks, the first rioter to breach the Capitol building, captured on surveillance footage. In the top right corner, Sparks is seen entering through a window in a trial exhibit. In the bottom right corner, he is circled in red in a Justice Department exhibit, approaching the police alongside fellow rioters Kevin and Hunter Seefried. It is worth noting that Kevin Seefried is seen carrying a Confederate flag in the image. These images were obtained from court filings by the Department of Justice.

After a week-long trial in Washington, D.C., Michael Sparks, the first rioter to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, has been found guilty on six charges. Sparks climbed through a window that was smashed apart by Dominic Pezzola, a convicted member of the Proud Boys. The charges include felony obstruction of an official proceeding and civil disorder.

The resident of Kentucky faced a week-long trial in the nation’s capital, which ended with the jury finding them guilty on six counts. In addition to the felony charges, Sparks was also convicted of several misdemeanor offenses, including entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

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According to the statement of facts, Sparks achieved the distinction of being the first rioter to breach the Capitol. He accomplished this by squeezing through the broken shards of a Senate wing window that had been smashed open with a police riot shield stolen by Pezzola. Despite law enforcement’s pleas for him to stop, Sparks remained undeterred and charged ahead, joining the rioters in their pursuit of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman.

In a chaotic scene from the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Justice Department court records reveal footage of Michael Sparks approaching Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman. The footage clearly shows Sparks circled in red, emphasizing the intense and tumultuous nature of the event.

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As Goodman retreated deeper into the Capitol, knowing that he could find backup there, prosecutors claimed that Sparks persisted in following him, disregarding requests to leave.

According to a statement from the Justice Department, instead of retreating, the individual walked to the front of the ground and directly confronted the officer they had been chasing up the stairs. Growing increasingly agitated, they shouted, “This is our America! This is our America!”

Sparks’ identity came to the attention of the police a day after the Capitol assault when an individual contacted the FBI’s National Threat Operation Center and revealed that Sparks was the first rioter to enter the building. This tip led to an interview with the informant on January 8, 2021, during which she shared that she had overheard Sparks discussing his intention to travel to Washington, D.C., for Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally.

After a few days, when police started reviewing the footage of the initial rioters who managed to enter the building, they observed something noteworthy. Specifically, they noticed Sparks on the recordings, instructing officers to abandon their posts and even pointing his finger at them. This incident occurred during the chase of Goodman through the building.

After January 6, Sparks attracted the attention of not just one, but two additional tipsters who reported him to the FBI. These individuals came forward when Sparks began sharing pro-Trump messages on Facebook.

He wrote a message of hope, urging everyone to be prepared for a new day. The words he shared were simple yet profound – a reminder to pray and have faith in the Lord.

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In a recent Facebook post, Sparks confidently declared, “Trump will serve as your president for four more years, in Jesus’ name.” He urged his followers to be prepared for significant upcoming events, advising them to have radios in case of power outages. Sparks concluded his post by expressing love for everyone.

On January 19, 2021, he was taken into custody and entered a plea of not guilty for all charges.

During his criminal trial, which took place this month, jurors were presented with evidence of Sparks’ unwavering fixation on Trump’s baseless allegations of extensive fraud in the 2020 election, as reported by NBC. As early as November, when President Joe Biden was declared the winner, Sparks found himself immersed in online discussions, fervently supporting the former president and engaging in conversations on platforms like Parler regarding alleged instances of fraud.

Before January 6, he arrived in Washington, D.C. for the “Stop the Steal” rally on December 12, 2020. This event escalated into violence later that evening as Proud Boys clashed with counterprotesters on the streets. During the rally, Sparks chose to record and watch a speech delivered by Mike Lindell, a close ally of President Trump and known as “MyPillow Guy.”

Sparks became more and more active on social media as the weeks went by. He constantly posted messages about voter “fraud” and used his own intense rhetoric to encourage others to reject the election results.

On January 1, 2021, Sparks openly voiced his support for violent conflict.

Sparks showed his unwavering support for Trump on his Facebook account, boldly declaring his readiness to lay down his life for what he believed in. According to his post, he firmly believed that the votes had been stolen and was prepared to fight for the constitution, stating, “As for me, I believe in the constitution, so I’ll die for it. Trump is my president.”

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Sparks’ defense attorney, Scott Wendelsdorf, admitted that his client was guilty of misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct. However, during the trial, Wendelsdorf argued that Sparks had simply been overly enthusiastic and had ultimately been misguided on January 6th.

He faced accusations of perpetrating violence he had not actually committed, prompting him to leave the Capitol when he realized that the rioters had no intention of persuading then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Trump’s loss.

According to the AP, Wendelsdorf informed the jury that although Sparks may have initiated the game, he was rendered inactive on the sidelines before the first quarter concluded.

Sparks arrived in Washington, D.C. alongside his friend and colleague, Joseph Howe. The two men, dressed in tactical gear, attended Trump’s rally before heading towards the Capitol with the intention of preventing lawmakers from certifying the election.

According to the Justice Department, Howe was sentenced in October for two felony counts. In August 2023, he struck a plea deal for obstructing an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers. In the footage, he can be seen roaming through the Capitol, grabbing a fire extinguisher, and spraying it directly at the police officers’ faces.

U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly, a Trump appointee, is scheduled to sentence Sparks on July 9.

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