A Fort Bragg, North Carolina, soldier has been arrested on allegations he participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection months before joining the Army.
James Phillip Mault, 29, originally from Brockport, New York, was arrested earlier this month on charges including assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon or inflicting bodily injury; disorderly conduct in a U.S. Capitol building; and civil disorder, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., announced Wednesday.
Col. Joe Buccino, a Fort Bragg spokesman, confirmed to Military.com that Mault, who joined the Army in May, was arrested Oct. 6.
Asked how Mault made it past enlistment screening despite allegedly having participated in the attack on the Capitol, Buccino said, "We really don't know how that may have happened.
"I'd just say that we are fully coordinating with federal authorities on this matter," he added in an email.
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On Jan. 6, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building while lawmakers were meeting to certify President Joe Biden's electoral victory. More than 600 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, dozens of whom have been found to be veterans, reservists or Guardsmen, as well as a couple of active-duty troops.
Prosecutors allege that Mault sprayed a chemical agent at law enforcement officers, with a criminal complaint saying he was recorded doing so by a Metropolitan Police Officer's body camera and a Capitol security camera.
A cell phone video captured Mault spraying law enforcement officers with an unknown substance, and a photo posted on seditionhunters.org, which aims to identify Capitol rioters using open-source information, shows Mault spraying in the direction of officers, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors also accuse Mault of confronting law enforcement officers at a barricade outside the Capitol, with the complaint saying another Brockport man arrested the same day as Mault ripped down the barrier so the crowd could bypass the officers.
The FBI was tipped off to Mault's involvement by an informant who claimed to have seen a picture of him inside the Capitol building wearing a red hard hat adorned with stickers, including one for Ironworkers Local 33 Rochester, the complaint said.
When interviewed by the FBI, Mault acknowledged being at the rally that preceded the Capitol attack, but denied assaulting anyone or damaging property, according to the complaint.
"Mault described being caught up in the crowd and the mass of people pushed him closer and closer to the Capitol Building," the complaint said. "Mault claimed to have no choice but to move forward because of the press of people behind him. Mault ended up right next to an entrance to the Capitol Building but denied entering the Capitol Building."
He wore his hard hat from work, he told the FBI, because "he was aware of ANTIFA attacking Trump supporters after events in Washington, D.C., and the helmet would provide some level of protection," the complaint added. Pro-Trump rallies in Washington in November and December ended in violent fights between rallygoers and counterprotesters, according to reports at the time.
Mault made an initial court appearance Oct. 8 in North Carolina and remains detained, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office press release.
The arrests of service members and veterans in connection with the Capitol attack have alarmed Democratic lawmakers and the Pentagon. In the wake of the insurrection, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called rooting out extremism from the ranks a priority and used one of his first acts in office to order a forcewide standdown to address the issue.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing this week with expert witnesses on domestic violent extremists' recruitment of veterans, though the meeting frequently devolved into partisanship.
Republicans accused Democrats of vilifying veterans by holding the hearing.
"To hold this committee hearing, I believe it's completely unjust, and I believe it's completely wrong to characterize as if it's any more than a fractional percentage of members of our veterans community who are extremists and who hate this country and who hate people because of their skin color," said conservative firebrand Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C. "Stop looking for extremists inside of our military because it does not exist."
But Democrats and the witnesses held that, while the percentage of veterans and service members conducting extremist acts is small, any number is pernicious.
"When I was talking to friends about this issue, I almost equated it to, like, cancer," retired Marine Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler said at the hearing. "You go see your general practitioner, they say, 'Hey, we found a lump in your body.' And if your general practitioner says, 'Hey, don't worry about it,' you're not going to not worry about it. You're going to rush to an oncologist, you're going to get some tests, you're going to determine the scope and scale of what this growth might be, and if it is cancerous, you're going to develop a strategy to defeat it."
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.
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