When Victoria Bergeson of Groton planned a trip to Washington, D.C., last week to sight see and check out the president’s rally, she didn’t know she’d get caught up in a violent siege at the U.S. Capitol and get arrested, her lawyer said Monday.
The D.C.-based attorney, Samuel Bogash, said Bergeson, 40, was locked up for more than 18 hours after being charged with a curfew violation and unlawful entry of public property, although he said the curfew citation is not expected to be prosecuted.
Bergeson, a nurse, said she lost her new job at an urgent care center; her new employers rescinded their job offer when they learned of her arrest. She would only talk about her experience through her lawyer. Her fiancé, Mauricio Mendez, also 40, was arrested on the same charges but declined to comment because he didn’t have a lawyer yet, she said.
Bogash said his client never was in the Capitol building on Wednesday and was not on the grounds the entire time. She didn’t know about the curfew, he said.
The couple had “COVID cabin fever” and decided to visit the nation’s capital, where her cousin lives, the lawyer said.
“My client does lean Republican, she’s a registered Republican,” Bogash said. “She knew there was going to be a protest and rally. She was like ‘OK, that’s going on, maybe we can look at that.’ It was part of the mix.”
They missed Trump’s speech, for which he was widely criticized for instigating the mob that later broke into the Capitol building in a violent invasion that took the lives of a rioter and a U.S. Capitol police officer among others.
The couple heard some speakers but found the rally boring and left to have lunch and do some sightseeing, Bogash said.
“They were like, ‘I’m done with this,’ ” he said.
When they returned, they walked around the Capitol grounds and saw that things were starting to get out of control.
“They watched everybody storm up the steps. Then they left again,” Bogash said. “They thought it was getting out of hand. It looked like something that they wanted to back away from at that point.”
But curiosity got them, and they decided to return again.
“They wanted to see how it was turning out,” Bogash said.
By the time they returned, it was 6 p.m. and dark. They were a distance from the Capitol building, standing in one of two traffic circles that is separated from the building by an expanse of grass. They didn’t realize they were standing on Capitol grounds, he said.
They hadn’t heard the announcement about the curfew, Bogash said.
The couple watched as heavily armed figures used shields to push people away.
“I’m telling you, it was a show,” Bogash said. “They were filming it.”
Next thing they knew, there were shields in front of them and behind them, he said.
By 6:30 p.m. they were corralled with a group of about 20 arrestees, which would have included reporters had they not quickly shown their press passes to police, Bogash said.
A police report puts the time of the arrests close to 7:15 p.m. The report says those arrested were given at least three warnings to disperse before they were taken into custody.
Bergeson was arraigned Thursday and is scheduled to return to Superior Court for the District of Columbia on June 10.
Christine Dempsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.