HOPKINTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A third Rhode Island man has been charged for taking part in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
William Cotton, 53, of Hopkinton, was arrested Wednesday by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with four federal counts including: entering a restricted building or ground, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building or grounds and parading, and demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
In a court document released by the FBI’s Boston office, agents said Cotton can be seen in surveillance, news and social media pictures and videos entering the U.S. Capitol during the attack while wearing a Bryant University sweatshirt. (There is no indication Cotton has any affiliation with the university.)
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Investigators were tipped off to Cotton by an unnamed individual who conducted “open source” research to zero in on the defendant.
Shortly before 3 p.m. that day, Cotton can be seen entering the Capitol building and “appears to chant something along with the crowd,” the complaint says.
“An open-source video recorded by one of the participants in the crowd shows that COTTON was chanting ‘traitor,'” the complaint states.
The FBI also tracked Cotton’s cellphone to the Capitol grounds that day and license plate readers in Washington, D.C., tracked his car with Rhode Island plates in the city.
He appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Providence on Wednesday afternoon. After the hearing he told 12 News he was innocent of the charges, doesn’t recall being there.
“I actually don’t remember it, I’ve had a stroke,” Cotton said. “I don’t remember too much. I was down there for freedom of speech not for a Trump rally.”
In 2016, Cotton was recognized by the R.I. Senate for being a “marijuana patient advocate
and educator,” and for being “the first medical marijuana patient in Rhode Island.”
Cotton is the third Rhode Islander to be charged in the incident.
In June, 47-year-old Bernard Joseph Sirr of North Kingstown was charged for his role in the attack. He faces five federal felony and misdemeanor charges, including obstruction of law enforcement, engaging in physical violence in a restricted buildings or grounds and act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds.
In November of last year, Timothy Desjardins was charged with six criminal counts related to Jan. 6 including “assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon.” Court documents unsealed Tuesday in federal court allege Desjardins used a table leg to repeatedly hit law enforcement officers who were guarding the Capitol.
Amanda Pitts contributed to this report.