“I was invited in,” he said. “I don’t know. I was invited in.”
“You were invited in by whom?” Howell asked.
After one of several conferences with his federal public defender, Rebecca Shephard, Simon recanted.
“That was a poor choice of words,” he said. “I was just with the other protesters and was just going in.”
Simon displayed no such confusion on Jan. 6, according to a transcript of Simon’s cell phone recordings made that day, which Howell read aloud at length.
“Did they invite us in? (Expletive) no, they didn’t,” Howell quoted Simon as saying. “This is our house. We don’t need permission.”
“I was just talking. Just saying stuff,” Simon told the judge Friday. “I don’t know what I meant by it. Just talking.”
In a plea deal made with prosecutors, Simon admitted guilt to a single misdemeanor of demonstrating inside the Capitol, a charge that carries a possible six-month sentence and up to $5,000 in fines, plus court costs. He is the second of 15 Georgians charged in the riot to admit wrongdoing.
The FBI received multiple tips in the hours following the riot that Simon had been among the hundreds in the pro-Trump mob who entered the Capitol. The mob stormed the building following a rally in which the former president had urged supporters to march on the Capitol. The evidence included a photo Simon posted to Facebook outside the Capitol where he posed with someone wearing an eagle mask.
“Feel like I took about 50 bong rips of pepper spray today,” Simon wrote, describing the photo as a “victory picture after the ramming through of the capital (sic) building.”
He included the hashtag “#FreemanDontask,” followed by a profanity. In an affidavit, the FBI said Simon also posted, then later deleted, a video he apparently took from inside the Capitol. When contacted by the FBI later in January, Simon denied entering the Capitol and denied taking any photos or video in Washington, according to the affidavit. The FBI later discovered surveillance video apparently showing him at several different locations inside the Capitol, which led to his arrest in May.
Shortly after the riot, Simon, who is a Maine native, gave an interview to his hometown newspaper, the Lewiston Sun Journal, where he described Congress as “grimy, disgusting monsters” and said he was in Washington to protect Trump.
Howell was irritated by Simon’s reluctance to admit to what was behind his conduct during Friday’s hearing.
“He says he doesn’t know. He was invited in and he was wandering around with a bunch of other people,” the judge said. “Should I be expecting a guilty plea?”
Ultimately, Simon said his behavior was “related to the election” and did admit to the charge. Howell accepted the plea and Simon, who has been out on bond since his arrest, was allowed to remain free while awaiting a sentencing hearing in January.