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SC man linked to US Capitol riot turns informant, signs plea for threats to ex-prosecutor

COLUMBIA — A Gilbert man linked to the riots at the U.S. Capitol in January agreed to become a federal informant as part of a plea agreement finalized April 9.

James Giannakos Jr., 47, pleaded guilty to making threatening phone calls to a former federal prosecutor over information released on the leader of the alt-right group Proud Boys, who was himself acting as a government informant.

It was during a search of Giannakos’ Lexington County residence for evidence related to the phone threats that FBI agents found multiple items, including a U.S. Capitol Police shield, which federal law enforcement said in court documents showed “probable cause” that Giannakos participated in the mob that overran the Capitol. The riots were an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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The FBI also confiscated a “riot bag” that contained a map of the District of Columbia’s Metro system, eye protection, a bike helmet, a tactical vest with hard plates, baton, flashlight, masks and gloves, according to a search warrant filed in federal court.

At least four other South Carolinians have been arrested for their roles in the Capitol breach to date.

The event, which followed a rally held by then-President Donald Trump, resulted in the deaths of five people — a Capitol Police officer and four protesters, one of whom was fatally shot — as well as more than 100 injuries.

But the plea agreement Giannakos entered Friday only relates to the phone threats he made. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia still holds the ability to charge him for his alleged involvement in the riot should prosecutors so choose, though no charges have been filed to date.

During a court hearing finalizing the plea, Giannakos expressed his remorse to U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten for the calls he placed to the former federal prosecutor in Florida and her employer.

“I don’t even know where to start to apologize for this,” he said. “I was getting wrapped up in the 2020 election and the emotions of everything.”

Giannakos had been upset over the release of news that Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was an FBI informant, information that was already public record and simply confirmed by the former prosecutor.

Giannakos had a cousin who he said died suspiciously some years ago. The family held out hope a confidential informant would step up to give information in the case. But no one did.

He believed the prosecutor had put Tarrio and his family at risk, transferring those past emotions from his cousin’s case and viewing it as a betrayal that prompted him to leave the threatening messages.

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“If anything happens to Mr. Enrique Tarrio, the same thing will happen to you and your family,” read a transcript of a voicemail from a phone number linked to Giannakos’ residence that was included in court documents. “If anything happens to him, I promise you and your associates will pay for it. You will be held responsible.”

He also left six other messages on the voicemails of employees at the former prosecutor’s law firm.

Giannakos pleaded guilty to the crime of making an interstate threat and faces up to five years incarceration and a $250,000 fine. But federal prosecutors agreed to a lower sentence in exchange for his cooperation in identifying and testifying against others involved in crimes of which he has knowledge, which could include other Capitol riot participants.

He has been in custody since the beginning of February. He remains jailed as he awaits a sentencing hearing, which is expected to be scheduled in roughly three months.

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