Two active-duty Marines have pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. The two service members are the first military personnel to be charged and plead guilty in connection with the attack on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
The first Marine, Major Christopher Warnagiris, was charged in May with conspiring to obstruct Congress, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Warnagiris pleaded guilty to the charges on June 30, 2021. According to court documents, Warnagiris pushed his way past Capitol police officers and entered the building through a broken window. He was seen on video footage wearing a backpack and talking to other rioters.
The second Marine, Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Phillips, was charged in June with obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. Phillips pleaded guilty to the charges on July 7, 2021. Court documents reveal that Phillips used his body to breach a doorway that had been barricaded by police officers, which allowed him and other rioters to enter the Capitol building. He was also accused of using a riot shield to break a window.
The guilty pleas of Warnagiris and Phillips are significant because they demonstrate that members of the U.S. military were involved in the attack on the Capitol, a breach of American democracy. As active-duty service members, Warnagiris and Phillips swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Their participation in the riot is a violation of that oath and undermines the core values of the military.
The involvement of Warnagiris and Phillips in the Capitol riot represents a challenge for the military. Soldiers and Marines are expected to be apolitical and follow the lawful orders of their superiors. The military has traditionally divorced itself from domestic politics, recognizing the importance of maintaining civilian control of the military. However, the events of January 6th have demonstrated how political ideology can infect the military. The involvement of Warnagiris and Phillips in the riot challenges the military to re-evaluate how it screens and monitors its personnel for extremist beliefs and behaviors.
The guilty pleas also serve as a warning to other members of the military who may be considering participating in extremist activities. The message is clear: the military holds its members to a high standard of conduct, and those who violate that standard will be held accountable.
In conclusion, the guilty pleas of Warnagiris and Phillips are a sobering reminder of the dangers of extremism and the need for vigilance in monitoring the behavior of military personnel. It is also a reminder of the importance of upholding the values of democracy and the rule of law. While the military has long prided itself on being politically neutral, the events of January 6th have shown that the military must also guard against the threat of extremism.