An attorney suspended from Summerville has pleaded guilty for storming the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021. This makes him the ninth South Carolinian who has admitted criminal responsibility.
David Johnston, formerly of the George Sink personal injuries law firm, reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors Sept. 23, which dropped most of his charges.
Johnston, 66, was captured inside Capitol building wearing a navy “Trump” beanie and will be sentenced in December. He will be responsible for the $2.7 million worth of damage to the Capitol during the riot.
Johnston spoke with a Southern drawl, repeatedly admitting to illegally entering Capitol, and informed a Washington, D.C. judge of his plea.
He said, “Guilty your honor.”
Johnston and Clifton are the latest S.C. residents arrested as part of a massive federal investigation that began Jan. 6. It now appears that it is ending. Agents have rounded up more than 875 people from all 50 states as part of the largest criminal investigation in American history.Investigators charged Johnston and Clifton, who live a few doors down from each other on a Summerville cul-de-sac, with pouring into the Capitol on Jan. 6 during the earliest stages of a riot that prompted members of Congress to flee to safety.
They were among thousands of people who marched to Capitol Hill from a rally at which they heard former President Donald Trump and others make unfounded claims that Democrats had stolen 2020’s election.
As Congress met to officially certify the election of Democratic Joe Biden, the crowd rushed the building and overpowered the police officers who were protecting it. The rioters beat 140 officers with makeshift clubs and fists, while injuring 140 others.
Documents attest that Johnston and Clifton were inside the Capitol between 2:23 and 2:52 p.m. using cell phone GPS data, posts to Facebook and TikTok, and Capitol surveillance footage. The building was breached 20 minutes before they entered it. They entered the building 20 minutes after it was first breached.
Johnston was fired by his law firm and suspended by the state Supreme Court within days of his arrest.
Two-paragraph orders of the high court did not provide a reason for suspension. All lawyers agree to follow a strict code. The Supreme Court can discipline or ban them for violating professional or criminal rules.
Randy Hough, Johnston’s ex-lawyer, stated that he believed his client was innocent at the May 20 hearing in Charleston. He urged state officials not to take Johnston’s law license lightly.
Hough stated that there were allegations that someone had trespassed or been disorderly. “I don’t see how this would affect someone’s ability to trustworthiness as a lawyer.”
Johnston is a Campbell University law student and the ninth defendant to plead guilty in South Carolina. Seven of them have already been sentenced. Four of the seven were sentenced by federal judges in Washington, D.C., on sentences ranging from 14 days up to 44 months. Others were placed under house arrest and on probation.
Seven others are still facing charges. One Palmetto State defendant appears determined to bring his charges to trial.
Derek Gunby, a veteran of the Army and contractor from Anderson has fired his public defense attorney, hired an aggressive lawyer and promised to fight his charges.
Gunby posted a March video to Facebook in which he claimed that he was the victim of political persecution and requested donations to help him defend himself.
Gunby indicated in court filings that he would like to have his December trial moved to Greenville. A jury there would likely be more compassion for Gunby than Washington residents.
Gunby’s legal expenses were covered by an online fundraiser that raised over $5,100.