Rapper charged after entering Capitol building during riot and using photo for album cover

An image of Antionne DeShaun Brodnax sat on a US Capitol Police SWAT makes up the cover of the rappers latest albun

Jaclyn Peiser
Tuesday 18 May 2021 22:14 BST
The Capitol riots took place on 6 January
The Capitol riots took place on 6 January (AFP via Getty Images)

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With a cigar in his right hand and an American flag draped by his side, Antionne DeShaun Brodnax sat on a US Capitol Police SWAT truck as hordes of Trump supporters climbed the Capitol steps, storming the building behind him.

An image of that moment made its way to federal agents thanks to tipsters.

But more recently, it also became the cover of Mr Brodnax’s new rap album, The Capital.

Mr Brodnax, who raps under the name Bugzie the Don, admitted to investigators in the weeks following the insurrection that he went inside the Capitol on 6 January, but claimed that he was already in Washington to shoot a music video and entered the building simply because he wanted to take photos and video, according to court documents.

But federal investigators have a different interpretation of his appearance in the Capitol. They arrested him on 11 March - days after he released his album - and as of last Tuesday, Mr Brodnax faces four federal charges, including unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.

Now, his attorney is fighting a government demand to gain access to Mr Brodnax’s social media accounts.

Mr Brodnax’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post early on Tuesday.

The rapper from Sandston, Virginia - a town just outside Richmond - is among more than 400 people who face charges of joining a violent mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on 6 January. Federal investigators identified many defendants thanks to tips from family members, posts on social media and even boasting on dating profiles.

According to Mr Brodnax, he did not plan to enter the Capitol building on 6 January. In an interview with investigators, he said he went to the Capitol after noticing the rally and seeing people heading toward the building.

“Mr Brodnax followed the crowd to the United States Capitol building and entered the building after United States Capitol Police moved the gates that blockaded the door,” the affidavit said.

The rapper claimed he entered the building “peacefully” and spent about 40 minutes walking around taking “pictures and videos of the architecture,” according to court documents. He added that he didn’t go into any offices or chambers, and denied stealing anything or partaking in violence.

Video footage showed him inside the National Statuary Hall asking a woman to take a picture of him sitting on the base of a statue of Norman Borlaug, an agronomist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

Mr Brodnax told investigators that while he was inside the Capitol, friends reached out on social media alerting him that they saw him on a CNN broadcast. He left soon after, he said.

Days after the riots, federal investigators received tips that Mr Brodnax had breached the Capitol, according to the affidavit, including a tweet from an account that posts images of people at the insurrection and crowdsources followers to identify them. The tweet included a screen recording of the 6 January CNN live stream showing the rapper in the Capitol and identified him by his Twitter handle @bugziethedon.

Investigators also received a screenshot of a since-deleted Instagram post from Mr Brodnax’s account showing him with the Borlaug statue. Another tip included an image of Mr Brodnax sitting on the hood of the Capitol Police SWAT truck.

On 15 January, the FBI interviewed Mr Brodnax about his activities at the Capitol.

Two months after the riot, Mr Brodnax released his album “The Capital” on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. It features two tracks called “The Capital Skit” and “The Capitol Interview Skit, Pt. 2.”

In the first track, Mr Brodnax references people claiming he was in the Capitol but he says, “It wasn’t me.”

According to the US attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, Mr Brodnax was criminally charged last Tuesday and is due back in court on Thursday.

Since then, the government has sent subpoenas to Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to gain access to Mr Brodnax’s accounts to recover possible deleted posts, court documents show. In response, his attorney is trying to block the search warrants, claiming the move violates Mr Brodnax’s constitutional rights.

The Washington Post

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