WASHINGTON — A right-wing doctor known for spreading debunked claims about the COVID-19 pandemic pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to entering and remaining the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, without having the right to be there.
Dr. Simone Gold, who founded America’s Frontline Doctors, gained a following in summer 2020 through her opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns and her promotion of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus. At the time, it was clear hydroxychloroquine was unlikely to be an effective treatment for the virus, and subsequent studies have shown it may actually exacerbate the risk of infected patients.
Gold was eventually blocked from Facebook for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and continuing to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment.
On Jan. 5, 2021, one day before the Capitol riot, Gold spoke at an anti-vax rally in Washington, D.C. The following day, according to the Justice Department, Gold and an associate, John Herbert Strand, joined rioters in entering the U.S. Capitol Building. The Associated Press says Strand is the communications director for America’s Frontline Doctors.
In charging documents, prosecutors say Gold, accompanied by Strand, can be seen in photos from the riot using a bullhorn to give a speech to other members of the mob in Statuary Hall. Other videos from the day, they say, show Strand and Gold in part of a large crowd attempting to push past multiple officers blocking the entrance to the Capitol.
Gold and Strand were indicted in February on five counts each, including a felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
During a status hearing on Feb. 8, attorneys said Gold had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors for the second count she was charged with – entering and remaining in a restricted building or ground.
According to the AP, this charge is considered a misdemeanor and the conviction carries a maximum sentence in jail of six months.
Gold agreed to a federal judge Thursday to pay $500 owed in restitution as well as $25 in a special assessment. She also agreed to be interviewed about her conduct on Jan. 6 by law enforcement officials.
Gold will be sentenced in court, in person, at 10 a.m. on June 16. Strand, who was allegedly in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, to act as Gold’s bodyguard, has pleaded not guilty to his charges, AP reports.
According to AP, “A trial for Strand is scheduled to start on July 18.”
Gold and Strand aren't the only links between the anti-vax movement and the Capitol riot. In August, a federal judge sentenced a Virginia couple, Joshua and Jessica Bustle, to home detention for entering the U.S. Capitol Building. Photographs from Jan. 6, 2021, show Jessica holding a sign reading "VACCINE INJURY is the REAL PANDEMIC" as she entered the building.
Attorneys representing Oath Keeper defendants in their Capitol riot cases have also filed lengthy motions with the court comparing the COVID-19 vaccine to the Holocaust and rehashing debunked claims about hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. A federal judge promptly rejected those motions, and warned them not to use the court as a forum for "bombastic arguments."
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