TAMPA — A Hillsborough County man is the latest addition to the now more than 500 people who have been arrested on charges related to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Mitchell Todd Gardner II, whom federal prosecutors said has no fixed address but recently lived at a home in Seffner, was arrested Friday and held in the Pinellas County Jail over the weekend.
He made his first appearance Monday afternoon in a Tampa federal courtroom. He was told that he faces six pending charges, including destruction of government property and impeding an official proceeding, both felonies.
In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Risha Asokan asked that Gardner be detained until he can face trial.
The prosecutor described him as having taken a “de facto leadership role” in the riots. He was seen on a ledge outside the Senate portion of the building, using a red canister in a black case to break a window, according to a statement of facts that accompanied a criminal complaint. He then entered the building and gestured for others to join him. Gardner was also seen spraying an unknown liquid from the canister at Capitol police officers, the complaint states.
He admitted to a witness that he was at the Capitol and that “things got a little crazy,” according to the complaint.
The prosecutor alluded to video footage that shows Gardner’s participation.
“The defendant’s facial expression says it all,” she said. “This is someone who is rejoicing in his unlawful conduct.”
Gardner, 33, wore chains on his ankles and a dark polo shirt with an American flag emblem on the right sleeve. He said little during the short hearing.
His attorney, David Benowitz, spoke by telephone, asking that the matter of bail be taken up in a federal court in Washington D.C. The attorney declined to comment when reached after the hearing.
Echoing his words in another Jan. 6 case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson expressed incredulity at what occurred that day. He noted that in one other case involving the Capitol riots, he granted the person bail and in another he ordered the person detained.
“I can’t imagine what was going through their minds when they did that,” the judge said. “So I can’t imagine what’s going through their minds now when they’re released on bond.”
The judge said he would order U.S. Marshals to take Gardner to Washington D.C. for a judge there to consider whether he should be released on bail.
The government expressed concern that Gardner might flee if released. He was described as having a hefty monthly income through his job with a roofing company. He also owns a 2017 BMW, the government said. He got married last year, but is in the process of separating from his wife and has been “staying in hotels, and essentially couch surfing with friends,” the prosecutor said. He has no local family members.
In the last few weeks, federal agents have been covertly watching Gardner’s activities. They noted that he hasn’t visited his Seffner home since early May and that he took two out-of-town trips in June — one to California and one to Ohio. He had a one-way plane ticket to California when he was arrested Friday at Tampa International Airport, the government said.
With Gardner’s arrest, the number of people accused of federal crimes related to the riot has topped 500. The total includes more than 50 Floridians, the most of any state.
Drawn to the nation’s capital in protest of the 2020 election results, the mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump disrupted certification of the Electoral College results and sent senators, representatives, and former Vice President Mike Pence fleeing for their safety.