Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Crime

Florida man accused in Capitol lectern theft allowed to go free on bond

Adam Christian Johnson of Parrish made his first court appearance Monday in Tampa.
Adam Christian Johnson, 36, of Parrish, leaves federal court in Tampa with his attorneys, Dan Eckhart (left) and David Bigney (right) on Monday. Johnson faces three felony charges, including theft of government property. He appears in photographs of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, appearing to carry a lectern from the House of Representatives.
Adam Christian Johnson, 36, of Parrish, leaves federal court in Tampa with his attorneys, Dan Eckhart (left) and David Bigney (right) on Monday. Johnson faces three felony charges, including theft of government property. He appears in photographs of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, appearing to carry a lectern from the House of Representatives. [ DAN SULLIVAN | Times ]
Published Jan. 11
Updated Jan. 28

TAMPA — Adam Christian Johnson, the Parrish man who became one of the most prominent symbols of the riots that engulfed the U.S. Capitol last week when he was photographed carrying a lectern from the House of Representatives, was released Monday in Tampa.

Johnson, a 36-year-old father of five boys, appeared in a Tampa federal courtroom Monday afternoon. After the proceeding, Johnson signed a $25,000 signature bond to secure his release. He will not have to pay any money unless he fails to appear in court.

Johnson strolled out of the Sam. M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse shortly before 4 p.m., wearing a white T-shirt, flip-flops and shorts.

His lawyers said he has received death threats since the Jan. 6 riot.

“He’d like to just get home to his family,” said his attorney, David Bigney.

Adam Christian Johnson, 36, was booked Friday night into the Pinellas County Jail where he was being held on a federal arrest warrant. Johnson is accused of being the pro-Trump protester seen carrying the lectern of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building on Jan. 6.
Adam Christian Johnson, 36, was booked Friday night into the Pinellas County Jail where he was being held on a federal arrest warrant. Johnson is accused of being the pro-Trump protester seen carrying the lectern of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building on Jan. 6. [ Getty Images | Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Tuite ordered that Johnson is to be restricted from traveling outside the Middle District of Florida while the case against him is pending. He can travel to Washington, D.C., only for court appearances.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Scruggs told the judge that the government could not demonstrate that Johnson poses a risk of fleeing. But he asked that Johnson be subject to restrictions while on release, including drug testing, the surrender of his passport and a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“This is a serious case,” Scruggs told the judge. “Everyone involved in the storming of the Capitol last week needs to be held accountable for their actions, including Mr. Johnson.”

Johnson, flanked by Orlando attorneys Bigney and Dan Eckhart, sat quietly at a defense table, saying little other than to answer standard questions about whether he understood his rights.

His next court date is set for Jan. 19 in the nation’s capital. The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to occur the following day.

Scruggs expressed concern that Johnson would attend the event, emphasizing that he is to travel only for court purposes.

“I can assure you he is not going to be attending the inauguration,” Eckhart said.

The case against Johnson will be handled in Washington, D.C., but the judge explained that he has the right to have the case transferred to Tampa. Such a transfer, though, would require him to plead guilty, and would only occur with the consent of the U.S. Attorneys.

Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Eckhart acknowledged that the widely-seen image of his client inside the Capitol is problematic for the defense.

“I don’t know how else to explain that, but yeah, that would be a problem,” Eckhart said. “I’m not a magician, and neither is Mr. Bigney. We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside the federal building, inside the Capitol, with government property.”

Johnson had been held in the Pinellas County Jail since his arrest Saturday on a federal warrant. He faces three charges: entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, theft of government property, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

He is one of dozens of people nationwide who have been arrested in the days following the violent insurrection against America’s legislative branch of government.

Drawn to the nation’s capital in protest of the 2020 election results, the mob in support of outgoing President Donald Trump overwhelmed Capitol police, smashed windows, rampaged through hallways and congressional offices, and swarmed the Senate floor. Five people, including a police officer, died in the melee.

Amid the riot, Johnson’s image became iconic. A photograph appeared to show him strolling through the Capitol rotunda flashing a broad smile and waving his left hand as his right arm lugs the lectern, which bears the seal of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. A famous oil painting, “Surrender of General Burgoyne,” can be seen behind him, along with an American flag. In the picture, Johnson wears a knitted cap with the name “Trump.”

The lectern was later found undamaged inside the Capitol.

As the image circulated widely on social media, someone who knew him notified the FBI that he was a resident of Manatee County.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the type of bond set by the judge.