PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A North Kingstown man accused of taking part in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is seeking to change his plea after reaching an agreement with federal prosecutors.
Bernard Joseph Sirr, 47, was arrested in June by the FBI and members of the R.I. Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with 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 court documents filed Friday at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. — where the case is being prosecuted — both Sirr’s defense attorneys and federal prosecutors filed a “joint motion for a change of plea hearing.”
“The parties have resolved this matter and correspondingly request a change of plea hearing at the Court’s convenience,” lawyers wrote in the motion.
Plea agreements often include an admission of guilt on some counts on the condition that other charges are dropped, along with an agreement by the government to recommend a reduced sentence. But the formal plea agreement in Sirr’s case has not yet been filed with the court.
Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Sirr, declined to comment.
A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 27 in Washington, according to court records.
According to prosecutors, there is video evidence of Sirr participating in the so-called “heave! ho!” effort to infiltrate the Capitol, which involved a group of attackers trying to push through a line of Capitol Police.
Sirr “can be seen repeatedly engaging in an assault against law enforcement officers guarding the United States Capitol,” FBI special agent Brendan Fogerty wrote in an affidavit for Sirr’s arrests.
When arrested in June, Sirr was working as a nuclear facilities engineer for the R.I. Atomic Energy Commission, a state agency that operates Rhode Island’s only nuclear reactor at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay Campus in Narragansett. According to the state’s payroll transparency portal, he made about $85,000 last fiscal year.
Laura Hart, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Administration said Sirr’s employment with the state ended on August 11, but declined to provide more details about his departure.
The FBI reviewed YouTube video that they say shows Sirr marching with a group of people in a so-called “stack” before entering into the tunnel at about 3 p.m. on Jan. 6. The video shows Sirr at the front of a police line, “pushing rioters who are assaulting police officers,” according to Fogerty.
FBI agents said they were able to identify Sirr after photos of him wearing a tan and black baseball hat with an image of a snake similar to the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag surfaced on the internet following the attack. They later located a social media account tied to Sirr, which showed him wearing the same hat.
Sirr’s North Kingstown home was searched on the day of his arrest. He was released with a series of conditions, including having to relinquish 12 guns that were found in his home, handing over his passport, and staying out of Washington except for court appearances.
Two other Rhode Island men have been charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol. William Cotton, 53, of Hopkinton, is scheduled to have a pretrial hearing next week. 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.
The federal case against Timothy Desjardins — the first Rhode Islander charged in connection with the attack — is on hold pending the outcome of state weapons and assault charges.
Desjardins was charged with six criminal counts related to Jan. 6 including “assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon.” Federal court documents allege Desjardins used a table leg to repeatedly hit law enforcement officers who were guarding the Capitol.
The state case against Desjardins is scheduled to go to trial in April.
Tim White (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
Eli Sherman contributed to this report