Reprinted with permission from DailyKos
Lonnie Coffman toted guns and hauled a cache of weapons and Molotov cocktails to Washington, D.C. on January 6 and on Friday, at a court in the nation's capital, he pleaded guilty to two criminal charges that prosecutors, if they wished to hit him with the max sentence, could earn him up to 15 years in prison.
The 71-year-old of Falkville, Alabama was indicted on January 11 and was the first person tied to the siege to be charged. Coffman, a U.S. Army veteran who served multiple tours in Vietnam, was arrested on January 6 after he was stopped by police near the Capitol.
Coffman had parked his red GMC Sierra inside an area cordoned off by law enforcement just near the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee buildings. A pipe bomb was suspected to have been dropped off in the area and police had cleared the zone. That suspect is still at large.
In the process of clearing the area, one officer noticed Coffman's truck and upon peering inside, spotted a gun on the passenger seat, according to a criminal affidavit filed on January 7.
A U.S. Capitol Police bomb squad was called in to inspect the truck and officers quickly turned up a loaded 9mm handgun, a rifle, a semi-automatic shotgun, a number of large capacity ammunition feeding devices with over 10 rounds of rifle ammunition, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, machetes, a stun gun, smoke bombs and no less than 11 Molotov cocktails.
Since his arrest—when officers also found on his person a 9mm handgun and a .22-caliber revolver—Coffman has been held at the D.C. jail on pretrial detention.
On Friday, during a remote plea hearing at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Coffman entered two guilty pleas; one plea was for the Molotov cocktails and the other was for carrying a pistol without a license.
Though he was originally charged with 17 counts, all of which were related to the weapons stowed in his truck —he was not charged with entering the Capitol or rioting—Coffman negotiated a plea deal earlier this year. To drop several of the counts, he offered authorities access to his social media accounts and like many other defendants related to the insurrection at the Capitol, he agreed to be interviewed about January 6 ahead of sentencing.
According to NBC4 reporter Scott MacFarlane, who covered the plea hearing Friday, Coffman at one point attempted to argue that the Molotovs found in his car were defective due to age. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, informed Coffman she would not accept his plea deal if he tried to play down or deny the charge.
MacFarlane noted Friday that during this exchange with Kollar-Kotelly, when the judge asked whether Coffman put gasoline, a lighter and rags in the 11 mason jars before he came to Washington, Coffman said yes but he "didn't plan any action with those things."
Coffman maintained he whipped them up long before his travels to D.C. but Kollar-Kotelly was persistent Friday afternoon since a part of the 71-year-old's plea deal involves admitting to having the Molotovs in his car. Coffman finally conceded Friday that he knew the devices were illegal and that he was carrying, illegally, two unregistered guns on Capitol Hill.
The maximum sentence for the Molotov cocktails is 10 years and for the guns, five years but the estimated sentencing range for the guns is about six to 24 months in prison while the Molotovs feature an estimated guideline for sentencing at about 37 to 46 months.
Notably, in addition to the small armory Coffman hauled around in his truck, law enforcement also turned up a disturbing handwritten note authored by the Alabama man that listed a quote believed to have been uttered by President Abraham Lincoln.
"We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution," the scrawled citation read.
Coffman also listed the name of Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat and noted, in parentheses, that Carson is Muslim. Coffman also rattled off a series of conservative political pundits on his list and included contact information. Senator Ted Cruz also appeared on the note as well as Judge David Hamilton of Indiana's 7th circuit. Coffman had listed Hamilton explicitly as a "bad guy."
Coffman is expected to be sentenced in April and will be held without bond until that time.