Georgia man pleads guilty to Jan. 6 charge

Duluth resident admits “I was there”; faces up to six months in prison at April sentencing

Amid the chaos of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, Duluth resident John David Ross Gould wandered right to the door of the U.S. House of Representatives where a mob was attempting to pry it open.

Rather than joining in, he turned into a reception room across the hall and snapped a photo of himself reflected in an ornate mirror.

“Can you see me in the mirror?” Gould, 45, allegedly wrote in a text sent from his cell phone.

The photo shows a figure prosecutors say is Gould in a distinctive white cowboy hat. In a hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Gould admitted it was.

“I was there,” Gould, appearing via videoconference, told U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras. “I’m guilty, yessir.”

In an agreement reached with prosecutors, Gould pleaded guilty to illegally demonstrating in the Capitol, a misdemeanor that carries a possible six-month prison sentence and up to $5,500 in penalties. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

Gould was arrested in March, more than a year after the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop or delay the certification of the 2020 presidential election. But he had been on the federal radar since the summer of 2020 when he stopped by his coworker’s apartment to see why he had not shown up for work.

When Gould arrived at fellow Duluth resident Jonathan Davis Laurens’ home, he found him talking to the FBI. He excused himself before agents could identify him, but according to court records, Laurens told the agents that he and Gould had entered the Capitol together — something agents confirmed when they interviewed Gould later.

Additionally, prosecutors said photos and security camera footage showed Laurens and Gould walking among the hundreds of rioters who streamed through the Capitol that day. Investigators compared those photos with surveillance photos the FBI took of Gould at an Atlanta-area convenience store prior to his arrest.

Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

During the hearing, Gould agreed that he broke the law, but he quibbled with some of the prosecutor’s statements. Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Collyer said Gould told the FBI he entered the Capitol because he wanted “to be heard” and that “no one was listening.”

“I did not go into the building because no one was listening to me,” he said. “I went in because Capitol police let us into the building.”

“It is clear Capitol Police did not let anyone into the building,” Collyer said.

During Monday’s hearing, Contreras ordered Gould to privately discuss the matter with his attorney, Peter Cooper. After a few minutes, Cooper said the belief by some Jan. 6 defendants that police allowed them into the building is not uncommon and argued that it had no bearing on whether he was guilty of the charge.

The prosecutor and the judge agreed, although the judge noted that the prevalence of tear gas and loud alarms is evidence that the rioters were not welcome.

Gould’s attitude toward the riot could be a problem when he next appears in court for sentencing. Judges in similar cases have taken a dim view of defendants not willing to accept full responsibility for their actions.

Laurens, Gould’s coworker, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in February and was sentenced in June to two months house arrest and a year of probation.

Gould is the 16th of 22 defendants with Georgia roots to plead guilty to taking part in the riot. Most, like Gould, have pleaded out to misdemeanor offenses, although three Georgians have pleaded to felony charges and several other felony cases appear headed to trial.