A Georgia man with a history of political extremism and threatening behavior pleaded guilty Friday to sending text messages threatening to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Cleveland Grover Meredith is the first of 15 Georgians charged in the riot to plead guilty. The 53-year-old Lovett School graduate and former owner of an Acworth car wash faces between six months and two years in prison and up to $75,000 in fines. How long he spends behind bars depends on whether U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson believes Meredith intended to make good on his threats.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 14.
Meredith was arrested in his Washington, D.C., hotel room on Jan. 7 after a relative called the FBI concerned about a series of violent text messages from him.
“Thinking about heading over to Pelosi (expletive) speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV,” one text read.
Jackson asked Meredith if he wrote a text threatening to kill Pelosi, drawing an objection from his attorney.
“Your lawyer has objected to my characterization of putting a bullet into her noggin as threatening to kill her,” Jackson said.
“It was political hyperbole,” Meredith told the judge. “But I did text that.”
It wasn’t the only threatening message Meredith sent. In another, he threatened to run Pelosi over with his truck, calling her “Dead (expletive) Walking.”
“I predict that within 12 days, many in our country will die,” he wrote.
In another message, he threatened Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser while strategizing how best to conduct a running assault on the city.
When the relative expressed concern over the messages, Meredith walked them back. “Lol, jus having fun,” he wrote. “Locked in my hotel room ... high.”
The FBI searched a trailer Meredith was hauling behind his truck and found a handgun, an assault rifle, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and 10 high-capacity magazines. Along with weapons, FBI agents confiscated suspected THC “edibles” and vial of injectable testosterone, according to court records.
He was initially charged with four criminal counts, but prosecutors agreed to drop all remaining charges after Meredith agreed to pleading guilty to the one charge involving his threats against Pelosi.
Although technically considered part of the massive federal investigation into the events of Jan. 6, Meredith actually missed the riot itself. He was driving from Colorado and was delayed by car trouble, arriving at his Washington hotel later that night.
According to court records, Meredith received text messages while on the road updating him on the Capitol siege. He responded appreciatively. “Burn DC to the (expletive) ground,” he wrote, according to prosecution records. “War time.”
He also made more generic threats, saying he was “ready to remove several craniums from shoulders.”
Meredith was an early adopter of the wide-ranging QAnon conspiracy theory. In 2018, he took out a billboard on Cobb Parkway that read “#QAnon” with the logo for his car wash in the corner. At the time, Meredith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he paid for the ad because he was “a patriot.”
In 2019, Meredith was banned from his high school alma mater, allegedly for making threats to the school, according to a story first reported by WXIA-TV 11Alive.
Federal prosecutors claimed Meredith’s behavior had become increasingly aggressive in the months before the Capitol riot. After the November election, Meredith brought his assault rifle to a protest outside Gov. Brian Kemp’s mansion.
It is possible Meredith won’t spend much more time behind bars once he’s sentenced. He has been held in jail since his arrest in January and likely will receive credit for that time toward completing his sentence. After his release, Jackson said Meredith can receive up to three years supervised probation.
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