The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A rapper posed on a SWAT truck during the Capitol riot and put it on his album. He’s facing federal charges.

Left, an image sent to the FBI of Antionne DeShaun Brodnax, also known as Bugzie the Don, outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Right, Brodnax's album cover. (WUSA) (WUSA)
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With a cigar in his right hand and an American flag draped by his side, Antionne DeShaun Brodnax sat on a U.S. Capitol Police SWAT truck as hordes of President Donald Trump’s supporters climbed the Capitol steps, storming the building behind him.

An image of that moment made its way to federal agents thanks to tipsters.

But more recently, it also became the cover of Brodnax’s new rap album, “The Capital.”

Brodnax, who raps under the name Bugzie the Don, admitted to investigators in the weeks following the insurrection that he went inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, but claimed that he was already in Washington to shoot a music video and entered the building simply because he wanted to take photos and video, according to court documents.

But federal investigators have a different interpretation of his appearance in the Capitol. They arrested him on March 11 — days after he released his album — and as of May 11, Brodnax faces four federal charges, including unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.

Now, his attorney is fighting a government demand to gain access to Brodnax’s social media accounts.

Brodnax’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post early Tuesday.

The rapper from Sandston, Va. — a town just outside Richmond — is among more than 400 people who face charges of joining a violent mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Federal investigators identified many defendants thanks to tips from family members, posts on social media and even boasts on dating profiles.

Police radio communications synchronized with hours of footage show how failures of planning and preparation left police at the Capitol severely disadvantaged. (Video: The Washington Post)

A sprawling investigation: What we know so far about the Capitol riot suspects

According to Brodnax, he did not plan to enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6. In an interview with investigators, he said he went to the Capitol after noticing the rally and seeing people heading toward the building.

“Brodnax followed the crowd to the United States Capitol Building and entered the building after United States Capitol Police moved the gates that blockaded the door,” the affidavit said.

The rapper claimed he entered the building “peacefully” and spent about 40 minutes walking around taking “pictures and videos of the architecture,” according to court documents. He added that he didn’t go into any offices or chambers and denied stealing anything or partaking in violence.

Video footage showed him inside the National Statuary Hall asking a woman to take a picture of him sitting on the base of a statue of Norman Borlaug, an agronomist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

Brodnax told investigators that while he was inside the Capitol, friends contacted him on social media alerting him that they saw him on a CNN broadcast. He left soon after, he said.

Days after the riot, federal investigators received tips that Brodnax had breached the Capitol, according to the affidavit, including a tweet from an account that posts images of people at the insurrection and crowdsources followers to identify them. The tweet included a screen recording of the Jan. 6 CNN live stream showing the rapper in the Capitol and identified him by his Twitter handle @bugziethedon.

Internet detectives are identifying scores of pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol. Some have already been fired.

Investigators also received a screenshot of a since-deleted Instagram post from Brodnax’s account showing him with the Borlaug statue. Another tip included an image of Brodnax sitting on the hood of the Capitol Police SWAT truck.

On Jan. 15, the FBI interviewed Brodnax about his activities at the Capitol.

Two months after the riot, Brodnax released his album “The Capital” on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. It features two tracks called “The Capital Skit” and “The Capitol Interview Skit, Pt. 2.”

In the first track, Brodnax references people claiming he was in the Capitol but he says, “It wasn’t me.”

According to the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, Brodnax was criminally charged on May 11 and is due back in court on Thursday.

Since then, the government has sent subpoenas to Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to gain access to Brodnax’s accounts to recover possible deleted posts, court documents show. In response, his attorney is trying to block the search warrants, claiming the move violates Brodnax’s constitutional rights.

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