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Missouri Woman Accused in Fatal Drunk Driving Collision Pleads Guilty to Jan. 6 Misdemeanor

Woman identified as Emily Hernandez holds Nancy Pelosi's name plate

Images via FBI

The Missouri woman accused in a fatal drunk driving crash has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

Emily Hernandez, 22, was seen in pictures and on video grinning widely while holding a fragment of a sign appearing to identify the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) on Jan. 6. Pictures show Hernandez holding the sign in two separate locations at the Capitol, according to an FBI affidavit.

She pleaded guilty Monday to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building. She had also been charged with disorderly conduct, disruptive conduct in the Capitol, one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol building, and “steal[ing], sell[ing], convey[ing] or dispos[ing] of any thing of value of the United States.”

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said that the sign bearing Pelosi’s name was not the only item Hernandez took that day.

After noting that Hernandez drove to the Capitol with her uncle William Merry and friend Paul Westover, Hernandez entered the Capitol around 2:30 p.m. and made her way to various parts of the building.

“At some point [you] picked up a shard of the broken sign that announced that the suite belonged to Speaker Pelosi,” said Boasberg, a Barack Obama appointee. “You entered the rotunda at some point, took another sign that said ‘Do Not Touch’ from the foot of a statue,” Boasberg said, adding that she also carried a red “Keep Off” sign that was normally kept on Capitol grounds.

On Jan. 5, 2022—the same day as Hernandez’s collision—Merry pleaded guilty to one count of theft of U.S. property. Westover pleaded guilty in November to one count of parading, picketing, or demonstrating in a Capitol building. Boasberg is the judge in all three cases.

Hernandez faces a maximum one year in prison and $100,000 fine for her guilty plea in her Jan. 6 case.

Hernandez was arrested on Jan. 19, 2021, less than two weeks after she joined the hundreds of Donald Trump supporters who overran police to storm the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to halt the congressional count of Electoral College votes and block certification of Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election. She was not detained; her pretrial release conditions prohibited her from possessing an illegal firearm and traveling to the Capitol.

The docket in her case reflects little meaningful action until Jan. 4, when Boasberg issued a minute order setting Hernandez’s plea agreement hearing.

“After discussion with the parties, the Court orders a Plea Agreement Hearing” for Jan. 10, Boasberg’s order said.

The next day, according to Missouri Highway Patrol, Hernandez was driving west in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 44 just after 7:00 p.m. when she crashed into a car heading east. Victoria Wilson, 32, was a passenger in the car; her husband, Ryan Wilson, 36, was driving.

“Both vehicles swerved to avoid each other and the front right of [Hernandez’s vehicle] struck the front right of [the Wilsons’ vehicle],” the highway patrol crash report said. “[Hernandez’s vehicle] came to rest in the right lane facing west. [The Wilsons’ vehicle] travelled into the median striking the cable barriers.”

According to the highway patrol report, Victoria was killed; Ryan was seriously injured and taken to a hospital. Hernandez was also seriously injured and taken to a hospital, the report says.

Both cars were totaled in the crash, the report says.

St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV said a truck driver saw Hernandez heading the wrong way and tried to get her attention.

“Truck driver Jeff Barlow recorded video of a car going in the wrong direction on the interstate,” KMOV reported. “He said the car was going around 60 mph and he tracked six miles trying to get the driver to realize they were in the wrong lane.”

According to KMOV, Barlow said the Wilsons’ car was in the left lane, and a truck in the right lane stopped them from moving over.

“He described the collision as looking like an explosion,” the report said.

Hernandez was issued a citation for one count each of driving while intoxicated resulting in death and driving while intoxicated resulting in injury, both felonies, according to Missouri Highway Patrol.

Victoria Wilson had two children, ages 15 and 10, according to a GoFundMe set up by her sister Angelia Ortiz.

At the start of Monday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Arco requested that the terms of the plea agreement be changed in order to reflect Hernandez’s apparent involvement in the fatal crash.

Arco requested that Hernandez be prohibited from consuming alcohol, submit to alcohol and drug testing, and undergo a mental health evaluation and treatment. She also requested a condition that Hernandez not be allowed to drive, and that she surrender her passport.

According to defense attorney Michelle Peterson, who represents Hernandez in the Jan. 6 matter, Hernandez did not object to any of the conditions. Hernandez’s attorney in St. Louis, Ethan Corlija, said that as far as he knew, no actions had been taken to revoke Hernandez’s driving license, but the lawyer acknowledged that might change.

[Images via FBI]

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