Jersey City resident Hector Vargas, a self-described homeless activist who posted photos from inside the Capitol Building during the January 6, 2021 insurrection, was convicted yesterday after a five day jury trial in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C.
The jury found Vargas guilty of Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building; Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building; Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building; Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Building.
The government’s trial brief detailed Vargas’s actions on the day of the Capitol takeover.
“At approximately 12:51 p.m., the defendant climbed over the restricted area perimeter fencing and ran across the grass field on the west side of the Capitol. By 12:57 p.m., the defendant was near a bike rack barrier blocking entry to the lower West Plaza of the Capitol building. Approximately one minute later, the defendant moved that barrier, which allowed himself and other rioters to overwhelm U.S. Capitol Police officers and move closer to the building. While his fellow rioters engaged in hand-to-hand violence with a police line, the defendant climbed a wall near the southwest scaffolding and waved a yellow Gadsden flag. After police confronted the defendant on the wall, the defendant rejoined the crowd below, near the police line and the violent clash between rioters and police. Here, the defendant came close to the police line and various less-than-lethal munitions. The defendant then moved through the crowd, to the northwest lawn and went around the Capitol building to the East Front.”
“At approximately 3:15 p.m., the defendant was blocked from entering the East Rotunda doors by a U.S. Capitol Police officer. At approximately 3:20 p.m., the defendant held open one of those same doors as the crowd overpowered the U.S. Capitol Police officers in the entryway. The defendant then entered the U.S. Capitol building at approximately 3:21 p.m. and quickly moved through the crowd toward the police line guarding the entrance to the Grand Rotunda. By approximately 3:24 p.m., the defendant had made his way through the police line and into the Grand Rotunda, where he recorded a video of himself and posted it to social media. A few minutes later, the defendant and other rioters inside the Rotunda were escorted out of the U.S. Capitol building through the Memorial Doorway.”
Vargas placed himself in the thick of the melee via a series of social media posts. In one Facebook post, Vargas wrote “WE THE PEOPLE TOOK OVER THE U.S. CAPITOL. #HOLDTHELINE.” In a video post in “selfie mode” Vargas filmed himself in the Capitol and said, “We took over this motherfucker … we took over this fucking capitol, tell them.”
Additional details and photos emerged in documents jointly filed by the U.S. Attorney and Vargas’s lawyer.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of a fine and one year in prison.
In 2020, Vargas, a Marine Corps veteran, was profiled by Jersey City Times for his work delivering meals to the homeless. The article focused on several of Jersey City’s “unsung heroes” during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time, several of Vargas’s neighbors, who questioned his sincerity and temperament, were critical of JCT for including him in the article. Some accused Vargas of stealing donations meant for the homeless. Councilman-at-large Daniel Rivera, however, came to Vargas’s defense telling JCT that “he can be rough around the edges and very outspoken, but his heart is genuine.”