Former Texas police officer pleads guilty over pro-Trump Capitol riot

© AP

File: In this 6 January 2021 file photo, rioters climb the west wall of the the US Capitol in Washington

– AP

A former Houston police officer is facing up to six months of imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to charges related to his involvement in the US Capitol riots.

Tam Dinh Pham, 49, was charged with the offences of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol building on 6 January, when he stormed the building along with supporters of former president Donald Trump in a bid to prevent the Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

The Department of Justice dropped some other charges against him as a part of plea bargain following his admission of guilt but the court documents did not specify them.

Mr Pham, though not on duty, was a serving police officer at the Houston Police Department when he breached the Capitol building. According to the Statement of Offence by the Justice Department, Mr Pham “attended a speech given by former President Trump near the White House,” before following “people walking toward the US Capitol”. He remained inside the building for about 15 minutes, posing for pictures and taking photos and videos.

“Once inside, he walked into the Rotunda and took photos and videos of himself and of the building,” said the court documents. “The defendant posed for a picture in front of a bronze statue of President Gerald Ford in whose arms a flag had been placed that read, ‘Trump – 2020 – No More Bulls**t’.”

© Provided by The Independent According to the court documents, these pictures were taken from Tam Pham’s phone. The metadata associated with each photos suggested that they were created on 6 January 2021 with interiors readily identified as from inside the Capitol building (Screengrab/ Department of Justice)

According to the court documents, Mr Pham initially told the agents during the investigation that he was in DC between 5 January and 7 January for business reasons. While he admitted to “briefly” attending Mr Trump’s rally on 6 January, he initially denied going inside the Capitol.

When the agents saw the photos on his phone, they noticed there were no pictures in the album “for the dates that Pham had travelled to Washington DC”.  It was only in his “deleted” photo album, they were able to find “pictures and videos that were readily identifiable as being of the interior of the Capitol building.”

Mr Pham told officials that he had gone to the rally with his wife and her friend, early in the morning and he started following people walking towards the Capitol. “Pham stated that neither his wife nor her friend went [to] the Capitol with him,” said the court documents.

“Pham stated that he climbed over some fences, which had been previously knocked over, and walked around some barricades. He stated he saw police officers, but he did not engage with them,” said the authorities in the court documents.

The court will announce the sentencing in the matter on 9 December.

He was sent on leave and resigned from the position soon after being publicly identified as having been inside the US Capitol during the 6 January riots.

The then chief Art Acevedo, after receiving a tip about Mr Pham’s possible involvement, reviewed his social media account and found photos suggesting his involvement in the Capitol riots, reported the Houston Chronicle. Subsequently, the chief  contacted the FBI’s Houston Division that opened an investigation against Mr Pham.

Meanwhile, the Houston Police Department is now auditing the arrests made by Pham while he was serving officer “to ensure there are no irregularities, to include the review of his body worn camera footage related to his arrests,” reported WUSA9, a CBS affiliated TV channel.

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