Actor and comedian Jay Johnston pled guilty on Monday to a felony civil disorder charge over his involvement in the January 6th Capitol riot. The 55-year-old actor, known primarily for his roles as antagonistic pizzeria owner Jimmy Pesto in the animated TV series “Bob’s Burgers,” among other roles, now faces a maximum of five years in prison for interfering with police officers during the riot.

(Justice Department via AP, File)
(Justice Department via AP, File)

Johnston, who was arrested and indicted by a grand jury last June, is one of more than 1,400 people charged with federal crimes in connection with the events of January 6th. According to prosecutors, video footage taken at the Capitol showed Johnston and four other men battling with police at the building’s lower west tunnel, where the actor was seen “handing up a stolen U.S. Capitol police shield to other rioters.”

Per an FBI affidavit, he was “close to the entrance to the tunnel, turned back, and signaled for other rioters to come towards the entrance.”

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Prior to his arrest, Johnston was listed as No. 247 on the FBI’s Capitol Violence website, which posts photos of those still wanted in connection with the riot. Johnston was identified to the FBI by a lawyer who represented him.

Charging documents further claim that he acknowledged his role in the incident in a text to several associates after the riot subsided.

“The news has presented it as an attack. It actually wasn’t,” he wrote. “Thought it kind of turned into that. It was a mess. Got maced and tear gassed and I found it quite untastic.”

Appearing in court on Monday, Johnston entered a guilty plea on one felony count of obstructing officers during a civil disorder. US District Judge Carl Nichols has scheduled a sentencing hearing for October 7th. Sentencing guidelines recommend a possible sentence of 8-14 months in prison, but the plea agreement does not specifically bind the judge to this suggestion, meaning he could pursue a maximum of five years.

Related: Supreme Court Rules DOJ Incorrectly Charged January 6th Defendants

Jay Johnston has appeared on TV shows including “Arrested Development” and the HBO sketch comedy series “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” ironically portraying a police officer in many of his appearances. His film credits include a small part in the movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” where he played a street-brawling newsman in the film’s iconic battle scene.

His most well-known performance was as the voice of the “Bob’s Burgers” character Jimmy Pesto, a rival restauranter who frequently annoys and antagonizes the show’s protagonist. When Johnston’s involvement in the Capitol riot first became public knowledge, Pesto was written off the show and the actor was reportedly “banned” from set.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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