Adam Kokesh, a Fairfax County gun rights advocate, pleaded guilty Wednesday to various charges associated with an Independence Day incident in which he videotaped himself loading a shotgun in Freedom Plaza, just blocks from the White House.
Kokesh’s impromptu plea came during an unscheduled hearing in D.C. Superior Court, just two weeks after he pleaded not guilty to the charges and told Judge Patricia A. Broderick that he was exercising his constitutional rights. Kokesh, who had grown a long, thick beard while in custody, said he was replacing his attorney, who had been involved in the case since Kokesh’s arrest.
A trial had been scheduled for Nov. 18, and Kokesh’s supporters had been advocating for jury nullification in his case.
But Wednesday, standing next to his new attorney, Kokesh pleaded guilty to carrying a rifle or shotgun, possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. In a separate case, Kokesh pleaded guilty to marijuana possession.
Court papers show that prosecutors offered the plea deal in a Monday letter sent to Kokesh’s attorney. In the letter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Natalia Medina said prosecutors believed that Kokesh tried to sneak a cellphone into the jail Oct. 22. Medina wrote that if Kokesh accepted the plea, he would not face additional charges regarding the phone.
Kokesh’s attorney, Larry Copeland, said it was the second plea deal presented to his client. Copeland said he and Kokesh “weren’t concerned” about the cellphone allegation but weighed the offer.
“We evaluated the case against him and the likely outcome and made a judgment that this was the best thing to do,” Copeland said.
Pending a Jan. 17 sentencing hearing, Broderick ordered Kokesh to stay out of the District and said he must report with supervising authorities weekly. The judge also ordered that Kokesh not possess any firearms. Kokesh faces a maximum of more than six years in prison on the combined charges.
According to court records, Kokesh posted a video to YouTube showing him holding a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun and loading what appeared to be live shells while speaking into the camera July 4. Kokesh is then seen racking the slide of the shotgun.
Authorities said the drug charge was the result of a June incident in which police saw Kokesh smoking marijuana near the White House.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen said in a statement Wednesday that the job of law enforcement authorities is “hard enough without irresponsible people intentionally coming into the District of Columbia to brandish a loaded shotgun.”
“As today’s plea demonstrates, there are consequences for anyone who flagrantly abuses our city’s firearms and drug laws,” Machen said.