A California man captured on video smoking marijuana inside the U.S. Capitol during last month’s riots was driven by “bizarre” conspiracy theories to join the violent insurrection, a federal prosecutor said Friday.
A federal magistrate judge in Virginia ordered Eduardo Nicolas Alvear Gonzalez to remain jailed and transferred to Washington, D.C., for his next hearing on charges related to the Jan. 6 siege.
Gonzalez, 32, of Ventura, California, was dubbed “The Capitol Rotunda Doobie Smoker” on a video posted on YouTube. When somebody on the video asked why he was smoking weed in the Capitol, Gonzalez responded in part by saying, “Freedom,” according to the FBI.
Gonzalez bragged about handing out marijuana to others who stormed the Capitol and could be heard saying, “Time to smoke weed in here!” on a video, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bosse said.
Bosse said Gonzalez frequently posts videos about conspiracy theories on YouTube to an audience that he claims numbers in the tens of thousands.
“He has fallen under the sway of a web of conspiracy theories that is not just bizarre but dangerous,” Bosse said.
Gonzalez has talked on his videos about believing that we may be living in a simulation, that the Earth is flat and that the Smithsonian Institution is hiding evidence of giants, according to Bosse. Gonzalez also promotes central tenets of the QAnon conspiracy theory, including the baseless beliefs that Hollywood celebrities and other elites are operating a Satanic child sex trafficking cult and sacrificing children, the prosecutor said.
“This is sheer wild-eyed nonsense,” he said. “But if you believe that, what wouldn’t you do? The defendant was not just there sitting in his basement, absorbing this material. He’s acting on it, amplifying it and rebroadcasting it.”
Defense attorney Rodolfo Cejas noted that it isn’t illegal to believe in conspiracy theories. “It may be strange. It may be a variety of things. It’s not a crime,” he said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leonard said beliefs like those expressed by Gonzalez ordinarily are not factors in deciding if a defendant poses a flight risk or a danger to the community “unless those beliefs turn to actions,” he added.
“The court is not weighing whether or not someone who believes in QAnon poses a risk of danger to the community just based on those beliefs. The question for the court is whether or not those beliefs may tend to lead to action, action that could cause a risk of harm to the community,” Leonard said.
Gonzalez was arrested on Tuesday at a friend’s apartment in Virginia Beach on misdemeanor charges, including entering and remaining in a restricted building and disorderly conduct in the Capitol building.
Videos show him wearing a sun hat, a fanny pack and red, white and blue American flag pants at the Capitol. A family member who recognized Gonzalez from videos on YouTube contacted the FBI on Jan. 20, a court filing says.
More than 200 men and women have been charged in federal court with offenses related to the storming of the Capitol.