Brennan entered his plea to three counts of second-degree assault before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eric Johnson.
“The victims were basically afraid as the defendant was grabbing them,” prosecutor George Simms said during the hearing. “They didn’t know what more he would do.”
Brennan said little during the hearing other than answering standard yes-or-no questions designed to ensure that defendants want to plead guilty. At one point, he said “how truly sorry” he was over the incident.
Brennan is expected to be sentenced Feb. 2. Cases involving second-degree assault often yield a punishment of probation without jail time in Montgomery County.
Brennan had no previous criminal record, according to his attorney David Moyse. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Brennan will not seek “probation before judgment,” a type of court resolution that strikes convictions from a defendant’s record.
“He has spent that last six months trying to atone for what he did,” Moyse said after the hearing.
Brennan has been free on $5,000 bond since his June 5 arrest.
On June 1, Brennan set out about noon for a bicycle ride from his home in Kensington, making his way to the Capital Crescent Trail, which has a popular biking stretch from Bethesda to the Georgetown area of Washington.
At the time, three friends — an 18-year-old man and 19-year-old twin sisters — were hanging signs in the trail area, according to court documents filed by Maryland-National Capital Park Police and an earlier interview with the 18-year-old.
Brennan noticed the fliers.
“Killer cops will not go free,” one of them read.
“A man was lynched by the police. What are you doing about it?” read another.
Brennan “was heard saying, ‘That’s them there,’ while holding a phone up like he was recording them,” Park Police Detective Crystal Lopez later wrote in an affidavit filed in court.
Brennan then circled back, got off his bike and asked the 18-year-old if he could see the fliers, one of the teens said.
“He said it in a friendly way,” the teen recalled. “I thought he was intrigued.”
Instead, Brennan “forcefully ripped” the fliers from the young man’s hands, according to court records.
Brennan demanded that the three take down the fliers they had hung, according to Simms, the prosecutor.
He approached one of the women, according to court papers, grabbed her forearm and tried to yank fliers from her other hand, resulting in a tug of war over the papers before the woman was able to pull back from Brennan with the fliers, according to police. It was about this point, court records said, that the 18-year-old started recording the encounter.
Brennan was seen walking up to the other woman, whose right arm he reportedly bruised after yanking a roll of blue painter’s tape from it.
“Do not touch her!” the woman’s sister screamed.
Police say Brennan then shoved his bike toward the 18-year-old and tried to punch him. The man suffered a minor cut on his leg, according to Simms.
Brennan accused the three of causing riots, called them “deviants” and rode off down the trail, according to Lopez’s affidavit.
Video of the encounter soon spread on the Internet, prompting people to speculate online about the alleged assailant’s identity. Two men, including a retired police officer, were publicly named by Twitter users as the suspect, even though authorities would later say they had nothing to do with the incident.
Park Police also released photos of the alleged attacker, prompting a flood of calls.
“Tipsters requested to remain anonymous, but provided details of the suspect to include they knew him personally for more than 15 years and several were neighbors of the suspect and knew he regularly rides a bicycle,” Lopez wrote.
Investigators obtained Brennan’s driver’s license photo and enlisted recognition software, which “provided him as a match,” Lopez wrote.
By the morning of June 5, an undercover officer had set up surveillance near Brennan’s home. When he saw him leave in a white Acura SUV driven by his son, the officer trailed the vehicle, watched it roll through a stop sign and eventually pull into the parking lot of a church.
“He’d gone there to seek spiritual guidance about what he had done,” one of his attorneys, Andy Jezic, said in an earlier interview.
Later that day, Brennan allowed investigators to search his home.
They found gear and clothes that matched the video: “Sunglasses, bike helmet, cycling shoes, blue bandanna, water bottle, shorts,” Lopez wrote.
“Brennan also led officers to a black book bag in his basement office,” Lopez continued, “that contained the fliers and tape that were taken from the victims.”
After his arrest, two of Brennan’s adult children stressed that what he did was inexcusable and that he felt deep sorrow over it.
“My dad is genuinely sick with remorse for his actions and the pain and fear he has caused,” his son, JP Brennan, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post. “He has his struggles that he has been working through for many years that sometimes overshadow the man he is, but trust me, the love is always there. He, like all of us, has work to do understanding racial injustices.”