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South Dakota Man Who Made Riot Rap Video Defending Jan. 6 Capitol Attack Pleads Guilty

Billy Knutson in a selfie outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 (L) and at a broken window (R)

Billy Knutson in a selfie outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 (L) and at a broken window (R) (images via DOJ court filing)

A South Dakota man who joined the riotous mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and subsequently recorded a rap video in which he said he and others “had to storm the Capitol” has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Billy Knutson, 36, admitted to entering and remaining in a restricted building on Jan. 6, when scores of Donald Trump supporters forced their way through police lines and barricades and swarmed the Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.

Prosecutors were tipped off to Knutson’s presence at the riot by an unidentified confidential source who claimed to be related to Knutson.

According to prosecutors, Knutson had posted pictures of himself outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and was recorded having entered the building through a window at around 3:30 p.m. Knutson was seen on surveillance video speaking to police officers and other people in the building, according court filings.

“Closed-circuit video footage shows him spending several minutes inside the Capitol building interacting with police officers and other people,” said the statement of offense, which sets forth the facts and details of Knutson’s actions that he acknowledges to be true. “At times, he used a mobile phone apparently to record and/or livestream video, and/or to take photographs inside the Capitol. He then exited the Capitol through the Senate Wing Doors.”

The statement of offense also highlighted certain lyrics and images from his music videos, which he publishes under the name “Playboy The Beast.”

  • “The media’s been trying to demonize us about the events of January 6th, spreading fake news and propaganda as they always have.”
  • “We never gon’ surrender; these patriots on a mission.”
  • “We don’t wanna go to war but we gotta stand strong; we ain’t never backin’ down.” (This refrain is repeated many times.)
  • “Fuck ’em all, fuck ’em all; it’s a lost cause now. Line ’em up like dominos and watch ’em all fall down.” (This refrain is repeated several times.)
  • “If you’re not gonna fight for us then we have no choice but to band together and fight for ourselves.” [This was followed immediately by footage of rioters throwing objects (including a metal folding chair) at a police line at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.]
  • “We may have lost the battle but this fight is far from over. Give me freedom or give me death.” [He makes throat-slitting motion as he says the second sentence.]
  • “Said I’m ready for a war and what I said I really meant it.”
  • “If the price of freedom’s blood then I’m down to pay the fee.”
  • “You try to take away our rights we gonna greet you with guns.” [As animated bullets rain down on the screen.]

The statement of offense also refers to a December 2020 video in which Knutson clearly affiliates himself with the Proud Boys extremist group: “I’m locked and loaded ready for a civil war …. We Proud Boys ready for a civil war; 70 million armed civilians y’all don’t really wanna brawl,” Knutson says.

In a video posted in May 2021, Knutson boasts that he and others “had to storm the Capitol; Nancy don’t like us in her office,” in an apparent admission to the charge against him.

“Does the statement of offense truly and accurately describe what you did in this case?” U.S. District Judge Florence Y. Pan, a Biden appointee, asked Knutson.

“Yes ma’am,” Knutson replied, sounding deferential, with no hint of the vocal affect he uses in his rap videos.

Knutson’s plea deal with the federal government also includes a cooperation provision in which he agrees to “allow law enforcement agents to review any social media accounts operated by [Knutson] for statements and postings on and around January 6, 2021, and to conduct an interview of your [Knutson] regarding the events on and around January 6, 2021 prior to sentencing.”

Although Knutson insisted in his music that he is “ready for a war” and that he “really meant it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph DeGaetano confirmed that the plea deal Knutson accepted was the one and only offer from the government.

His “give me freedom or give me death” lyric notwithstanding, Knutson faces up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000. Judge Pan set sentencing for July 22.

[Images via FBI court filings.]

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