WASHINGTON, DC (WRIC) — Two Virginia men face up to 23 years in prison after they were convicted of storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021 — convictions secured using their own Tik Tok videos, surveillance footage and public Facebook posts.
Luke Bender, 22, of Stafford and Landon Mitchell, 32, formerly of Arlington but lately of Texas, were found guilty in a bench trial of obstructing official proceedings — a felony — as well as five other misdemeanors.
Unlike an ordinary trial, Bender and Mitchell agreed to a stipulated bench trial. That means that they worked with prosecutors to write a set of facts that both sides agreed were true and accurate, then submitted it to the judge so a determination of guilt or innocence could be made.
There was extensive evidence that Bender and Mitchell were among the rioters who broke into the Capitol on January 6. Among them was a Tiktok video, posted by Bender, apparently taken from scaffolding on the exterior of the Capitol building.
The account also posted a photo of Bender and Mitchell posing outside the building together. As for establishing that they had illegally broken into the Capitol itself, investigators turned to surveillance footage of the Senate chamber.
In this photo, Bender is shown posing at the senate podium with “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley. Other photos included in an FBI affidavit show Bender and Mitchell entering the rotunda and walking through restricted areas.
The FBI was initially tipped off to the presence of Mitchell and Bender at the January 6 riot because multiple people who knew or worked with Bender and Mitchell independently identified them as having been present on January 6. At least two of the tipsters pointed to Bender’s social media accounts, on which he bragged, “We’re storming the Capitol.”
In Facebook messages to friends and family, Mitchell bragged that he was “one of the first to breach” and that he “climbed the scaffolding up 3 stories, pushed back the police and breached the doors!!”
The pair are set to be sentenced in March 2023, and could face up to 23 years in prison, though they are unlikely to face the maximum penalty allowable under the law.