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PA volunteer firefighter negotiating a plea deal for being a part of Capitol riot

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Borys Krawczeniuk

The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Federal prosecutors and the lawyer for an Olyphant man accused in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot are negotiating a potential guilty plea.

The possible plea deal for Michael J. Rusyn came up Thursday morning during a conference on the status of the federal case against him.

Neither Rusyn, his lawyer, federal assistant public defender Andrea Bergman, nor Department of Justice trial attorney Michael J. Romano, who’s handling the case, offered details of the potential plea.

“We’ve been in discussions about potential resolution of the matter,” Romano told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to quite finalize the discussions yet.”

Romano said he still has “additional work” to do before the deal is done.

Bergman said prosecutors have offered a deal and are waiting for more information from Romano.

“And I understand that there are some internal discussions that are holding Mr. Romano up,” Bergman said. “But I do agree that I think over the next couple of weeks, we should be able to finalize those plea discussions. … I do anticipate that the matter will be resolved by plea.”

Rusyn, 35, said nothing about the plea deal during the conference. He only talked when Jackson asked him routine questions about his identity, his understanding of his rights and administrative matters. He answered by saying, “Yes, your honor.”

Romano said he should be able to finalize his work within two weeks and suggested another status conference in three to four weeks.

Jackson set the status conference for Sept. 1 at 9:30 a.m. If the plea agreement is finalized and provided to her before then, that could become the date for Rusyn to formally plead guilty, Jackson said.

Rusyn, a volunteer firefighter, is one of three local supporters of former President Donald Trump who pleaded not guilty to roles in the riot. They remain free without bail. The others are former Old Forge School Director Frank Scavo, 58, and Annie Howell, 31, of Swoyersville.

Prosecutors say Rusyn joined people who tried to enter the U.S. House chamber and called Capitol Police fending them off traitors. They chanted threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “stop the steal,” the rallying cry that falsely claims vote fraud cost Trump reelection.

Rusyn held a cellphone and recorded the encounter, according to a criminal complaint.

He and Scavo have claimed the crowd pushed them into the building. Rusyn told investigators he tried to take broomsticks with hooks and nails and other weapons away from other people.

Scavo’s case is set for a status conference Thursday. Howell’s case is set for a status conference Sept. 14.

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