North Georgia man pleads guilty to Jan. 6 charge

Blas Fabian Santillan, arrested Aug. 23 for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot, shouts to the crowd outside the  U.S. Capitol. In a hearing on May 17, 2022, he pleaded guilty to illegally demonstrating in the Capitol.

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Blas Fabian Santillan, arrested Aug. 23 for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot, shouts to the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol. In a hearing on May 17, 2022, he pleaded guilty to illegally demonstrating in the Capitol.

A North Georgia man who reportedly taunted the crowd for not following him into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, became the latest Georgian to plead guilty during a court hearing Tuesday.

Blas Santillan, 27, of Rabun County, faces up to six months in prison, a possible five years probation and as much as $5,000 in fines for illegally demonstrating inside the U.S. Capitol. Santillan agreed to plead to the misdemeanor charge in exchange for the government dropping three other misdemeanors, two of which carried a sentence of up to a year.

The Clayton resident was arrested in August after the FBI uncovered video of him emerging from the Capitol and exhorting the crowd to press forward and calling them weak couch potatoes if they didn’t.

“I’m the only one that was willing to kick that door. Who else is willing to storm in there?” he shouted, according to court documents. “You are used to sitting on your couch and watching your Netflix and listening to your shows and watching YouTube. You do not know what freedom is. ... Freedom is doing what you want!”

Santillan’s agreement to plead to the misdemeanor charge is the most recent in a series of guilty pleas of Georgia suspects. Of the 22 people with Georgia ties arrested in the riot, Santillan is the 12th to accept a plea deal.

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Federal authorities say the person circled in red is Clayton resident Blas Fabian Santillan. Santillan, 27, pleaded guilty on May 17, 2022, to a misdemeanor count illegally demonstrating in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Federal authorities say the person circled in red is Clayton resident Blas Fabian Santillan. Santillan, 27, pleaded guilty on May 17, 2022, to a misdemeanor count illegally demonstrating in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

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Federal authorities say the person circled in red is Clayton resident Blas Fabian Santillan. Santillan, 27, pleaded guilty on May 17, 2022, to a misdemeanor count illegally demonstrating in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. District Court Judge Florence Pan, who oversaw the guilty plea from Washington, D.C., via videoconference, set Santillan’s sentencing for Aug. 26. Until then, Santillan remains free on a recognizance bond, as he has since his arrest.

Although Santillan was arrested months after the riot, authorities began receiving tips about his involvement within days after videos and still images from the pro-Trump mob circulated around the internet. Tipsters reportedly saw Santillan’s Snapchat posts from inside the Capitol and forwarded them to investigators.

One tipster said they saw a video of Santillan outside the Capitol with a chair and pole strapped to his back. “I got a chair, a pole and a book,” he reportedly said on the video. The FBI could not independently verify the video because it disappeared from the social media platform before a copy of it could be made. Santillan was not charged with theft.

Authorities have arrested more than 800 people since the attack 16 months ago, with charges ranging from misdemeanor unlawful demonstrating to assaulting police and seditious conspiracy. So far, a little more than a third have pleaded guilty. The vast majority of those defendants have pleaded to misdemeanors that carry a few weeks or months in jail, although 48 defendants have pleaded to felony charges and face years in prison.