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‘Bob’s Burgers’ voice actor Jay Johnston pleads guilty in Jan. 6 riot

Actor Jay Johnston, who voiced a pizzeria owner in the television show “Bob’s Burgers” and had roles in “Better Call Saul,” “Arrested Development” and the movie “Anchorman,” has pleaded guilty to interfering with police at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Johnston admitted being part of a crowd that pressed up against officers in the lower West Terrace tunnel at the height of the uprising, including the widely shown incident in which a D.C. police officer screamed for help as he was being crushed between the rioters and a door.

Johnston, 55, pleaded guilty to felony civil disorder in a hearing Monday before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols. The FBI first posted photos of Johnston in March 2021, seeking help in identifying him, and a lawyer for Johnston soon contacted the bureau. Johnston was then fired from “Bob’s Burgers,” the Daily Beast reported in 2021, but he was not charged until June 2023 as the Justice Department worked through its backlog of potential cases against thousands of rioters.

Johnston’s sentencing was set for Oct. 7. According to his plea agreement, federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of eight to 14 months. But prosecutors said they will seek an increased range of 12 to 18 months because of the physical injuries suffered by Officer Daniel Hodges, who had a concussion and lacerations to his face as rioters ripped off his gas mask and punched him.

A pro-Trump mob clashed with police inside an entrance to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, pinning an officer against a door and removing his mask in the process. (Video: Status Coup via Storyful)

“I can’t remember all the different ways in which I was assaulted,” Hodges testified in one case. Johnston is not charged with assault on law enforcement but did acknowledge being part of the crowd that used stolen police riot shields to create a “shield wall” and yelled “heave-ho” as they repeatedly tried to overwhelm the stack of officers protecting the Capitol entrance.

As of early June, more than 1,450 people had been charged with crimes at the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the Justice Department, and over 1,040 had pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. The average sentence for a felony guilty plea has been about 29 months, according to a Washington Post database, but the average sentence when civil disorder is the lead charge has been about eight months.

Court records indicate that Johnston was first captured by cameras at 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, standing behind police barricades on the Capitol’s West Plaza, recording the crowd and police on his phone. As the barricades were taken down by rioters, Johnston followed the crowd up the lower West Terrace, and entered the tunnel at 3:05 p.m. and was handed a stolen police riot shield, according to the statement of facts filed in court Monday.

As rioters called for a “shield wall,” Johnston handed the shield to rioters immediately in front of the police and joined the group push that crushed Hodges, court documents state. Johnston was initially pushed back toward the entrance of the tunnel but made his way back into the tunnel and rejoined the push against the officers before leaving at 3:13 p.m.

Johnston was the voice of the character Jimmy Pesto on Fox’s “Bob’s Burgers.” He also appeared regularly on “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” an HBO sketch comedy series that starred Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, and “The Sarah Silverman Show” on Comedy Central.

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