Thomas Baranyi, the Mercer County man who gave a TV interview after storming the U.S. Capitol last year and showed blood on his hand from a rioter who’d been shot, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Baranyi, 30, who’d been charged with four crimes for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, pleaded guilty to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building. He’ll be sentenced in May, and faces up to six months in prison.
Born and raised in Hamilton, and now living in Ewing, Baranyi was candid in the local TV news interview, which made headlines nationwide and went viral online. He introduced himself as “Thomas Baranyi from New Jersey,” and proceeded to narrate his role.
“We tore through the scaffolding, through flash bangs and tear gas and blitzed our way in through all the chambers just trying to get into Congress or whoever we could get into and tell them that we need some kind of investigation into this,” Baranyi said to the news reporter. “And what ends up happening is someone might have ended up dead, and that’s not the kind of government we can have. People have to do something about it.”
Footage inside the Capitol would later show Baranyi, wearing a Donald Trump hat backwards and a New York Giants sweatshirt, was right next to Ashli Babbitt as she climbed through a broken window toward members of Congress.
“A number of police and secret service were saying, ‘Get back, get down, get out of the way.’ She didn’t heed the call, and as we kind of raced up to grab people, pull them back, they shot her in the neck,” Baranyi said in the interview.
Federal authorities arrested Baranyi in New Jersey about a week later. He’d been free on bond since his arrest.
At his plea hearing Thursday, Baranyi answered several questions from the judge and his lawyer with, “Yes sir” or “Yes mam” and made no detailed statements.
Baranyi’s plea agreement statement says he made comments, via text, leading up to Jan. 6 of his willingness to physically confront politicians.
“They [politicians] have to be removed. By force. That’s the only way,” and “Bludgeon thru them to get to the government that’s the only way left,” he texted in December 2020. Authorities did not say with whom he was texting.
“Let’s hope jan 6 they do the right thing and object,” he texted on Dec. 25, 2020.
And on Jan. 6, 2021, he wrote: “I’m so happy man I’m finally going to be a part of it and not just talking about it.”
Baranyi’s plea agreement, among other stipulations, requires him to cooperate with law enforcement and submit to an interview prior to his sentencing.
The charge to which Baranyi pleaded guilty has a one-year maximum prison term, but Baranyi faces an estimated six-month maximum due to several factors in his favor, including his lack of prior criminal convictions, the agreement says.
Last year, Baranyi’s father, Drake Baranyi, told NJ Advance Media that his son is an intelligent, thoughtful person, and he was stumped as to why he ended up at the Capitol.
Thomas Baranyi took an alternate path to finish college, but did so in his mid-20s, graduating from The College of New Jersey in 2017, and joined the Peace Corps, serving in Albania, his father said.
Fresh out of college, Baranyi joined the Peace Corps. Assigned to teach in Albania. Another PCV said the assignment was a task Baranyi seemed to be engaged in and enjoyed.
But signs of hostility toward other PCVs quickly emerged. One Volunteer described their relationship with Baranyi as “sibling-like,” said that his “standoffish” and “very opinionated” behavior made it increasingly difficult to work with him.
“He reacted very strongly — negatively — to many things, some innocuous, some rightfully upsetting, but it was almost always an overreaction. He was quick to anger,” the PCV said.
The Volunteer also said that while PCVs were eager to learn about Albania’s culture and values, Baranyi had no interest in mingling with locals.
Although reports Baranyi was discharged from the Peace Corps, another Volunteer claims that he finished his two years of service.
After the Peace Corps, Baranyi enlisted in the Marine Corps, in July 2020, but left active duty before completing entry-level training on Parris Island in South Carolina, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps Training and Education Command confirmed this report.
According to his former Peace Corps coworker, who remained in touch with him on Instagram, Baranyi was looking into getting back into teaching.
Months later, he resurfaced on television standing in front of the US Capitol.