MAGA rioter who yelled for 'patriots' to force open Capitol doors pleads guilty to felony charge

A North Carolina man who was on the front lines of the January 6 riot encouraging rioters to battle police at the U.S. Capitol has pleaded guilty to a felony, the Department of Justice announced today.

Lewis Easton Cantwell, 36, of Waynesville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to obstructing, impeding, or interfering with law enforcement during the commission of civil disorder.

“According to court documents, on Jan. 6, Cantwell joined other rioters at the front of one of the entrances into the Capitol and used his cellphone to make several video recordings of individuals battling with law enforcement officers,” according to a DOJ release. “During one of the recordings, he yelled for rioters to “get the door open.” At another point, he yelled that they needed “fresh patriots to the front.”

In reporting last July, the Asheville Citizen Times described Cantwell as having co-owned a since-closed teashop called “Sip’ Sum” and having served from 2005-2007 as a private in the U.S. Army. He was an explosive ordnance disposal specialist.

The newspaper also reported that Cantwell initially was assigned a public defender but “traded for a high-profile criminal defense attorney, Eduardo Balarezo” a D.C.-based attorney who it said had previously represented El Chapo.

“It is unclear how Cantwell went from qualifying for a public defender to securing Balarezo’s representation,” it reported.

But the Smoky Mountain News reported on December 15 that “California-based Attorney Nic Cocis entered his request to replace Eduardo Balarezo as Cantwell’s attorney of record.”

Cantwell, who will be sentenced on Sept. 22, 2022, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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