Second Maine resident charged in Capitol riot is military veteran

·5 min read

Jun. 3—A Gorham man charged in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol is a father and a military veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, his lawyer said Thursday during a video hearing held in a Washington, D.C. court.

Nicholas P. Hendrix, 34, of Gorham, is facing four misdemeanor federal charges for allegedly entering the Capitol along with hundreds of others during the deadly riot that injured dozens of police officers. Hendrix did not enter a plea during the initial appearance, which was held via video conference. Hendrix remains in Maine free on a $5,000 unsecured bond.

During a brief discussion between public defender David Beneman, who is representing Hendrix, and D.C. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui, Beneman told the court that Hendrix lives with his wife and five children in Gorham and works as a pipe fitter. Beneman said Hendrix is also in recovery and has been sober for 30 months while he continues medication-assisted treatment that includes suboxone, a prescription opiate-replacement drug.

"I want to congratulate you," Faruqui said. "Thirty months sober is no small feat, and you know that better than me. You're in a really stressful situation, and its really easy to just slip back. You have showed the courage and fortitude and keep on and stay on that path."

Beneman also said Hendrix is a veteran of the U.S. military and had been diagnosed in 2010 with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I truly appreciate your service to our country," Faruqi said, and acknowledged his PTSD diagnosis. "I'm sorry you have to suffer through that."

As part of his bail, Faruqui ordered Hendrix to undergo a mental health evaluation and continue on his current treatment plan, which includes regular counseling.

Hendrix faces charges of unlawfully entering a restricted building and disorderly or disruptive behavior inside a restricted building, which are Class A misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of one year in prison, $100,000 in fines, and one year of probation.

The other two charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and parading, demonstrating or picketing inside a Capitol building are petty misdemeanors, and carry maximum penalties of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Hendrix is not charged with assaulting police or damaging any property.

A Facebook account listed for Hendrix shows him in uniform in what appears to be an overseas locale, with a mud-brick hut, livestock and palm trees in the background. The photo, posted one day before Veteran's Day 2017, is captioned "Army Veteran."

Beneman declined a request for an interview, and did not respond to specific questions seeking to clarify Hendrix's military service history and other details.

"We cannot comment on pending cases," Beneman said via email.

It's unclear yet when Hendrix may enter a plea. He remains free to live and work in Maine as his case progresses in Washington, D.C., and is subject to bail conditions that restrict his travel out of the country or the state, except when related to the case.

FBI agents began investigating Hendrix after someone heard him discussing traveling to Washington, D.C. shortly after the riot.

The tipster said Hendrix was showing video footage he took that day and told people he had been pepper-sprayed, indicating that he was close to the building.

Several days later, FBI agents interviewed Hendrix in the parking lot of the Hannaford in Standish. Hendrix told agents he drove to Boston and caught an overnight bus to Washington, D.C. During the interview, Hendrix admitted that he had entered the Capitol building with a large crowd, according to a narrative filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by FBI agent Kristina Troxel of the Boston Field Office.

"Hendrix followed a mass of people to the Capitol and ultimately explained the crowd 'pushed' themselves into the Capitol," Troxel wrote in the narrative filed in support of an arrest warrant. "He further provided that he was inside the Capitol for a 'minute or two' before exiting. He attempted to enter the Capitol a second time, but he was hit with pepper-spray and then left the area."

Surveillance cameras from inside the Capitol showed a man matching Hendrix's description and wearing the same distinctive clothing enter the Capitol building along with a throng of others outside the rotunda door; 83 seconds later, the man who appears to be Hendrix left the building, Troxel wrote.

Hendrix cooperated with FBI agents and permitted them to extract images from his phone during his first interview, and later showed them the distinctive clothing he wore that day.

So far, more than 400 people have been charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol, where angry Trump supporters intent on stopping the certification of the election of Joe Biden as president stormed the Capitol, disrupting the typically pro-forma certification process of the electoral college vote count. Lawmakers and staffers were sent scrambling as the mob encroached closer to elected officials.

The FBI investigation into the riot and attacks represents the largest criminal investigation in United States history, according to federal prosecutors. FBI agents have received more than 200,000 tips, are sifting through more than 14,000 hours of surveillance and video footage, and have searched thousands of electronic devices in connection with the probe.

The number of defendants is expected to put unusual stress on the court system, and Faruqui thanked Beneman for stepping up to handle a case that is now outside of Maine.

Hendrix is the third man with Maine ties, and second Maine resident, to face federal charges resulting from the riot.

The first Mainer to be charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol was Kyle Fitzsimons, 37, of Lebanon, who was arrested in February. A Georgia man who is originally from Minot, Glen Mitchell "Mitch" Simon, also has been charged. Both have pleaded not guilty.

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