PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Brian Bartels of suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Pittsburgh to a charge of obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today. While others were lawfully protesting over the death of George Floyd, Bartels initiated the damage to a police car outside of PPG Paints Arena, including spray painting the car and smashing its windshield. Others then joined Bartels and the police car was set on fire.
Bartels, 20, of of Allison Park, PA 15101, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab.
“On May 30, 2020, Brian Bartels incited the largest and most destructive riot in Pittsburgh history since 1968,” said U.S. Attorney Brady. “Armed with his homemade agitator toolkit, this self-identified extreme left-wing anarchist came to the protest in downtown Pittsburgh that day with one goal: to incite violence. Bartels succeeded – he was the first to incite violence during the protest. While protesters yelled for him to stop, Bartels spray painted and then smashed and jumped on the windshield of a Pittsburgh Police cruiser. Others then joined in and the cruiser was set on fire and destroyed.”
“Bartels’s actions were the inflection point in the demonstration,” U.S. Attorney Brady added. “What was peaceful became lawless. Ultimately, Pittsburgh police cars were burned. Mounted Pittsburgh Police Officers were attacked. Projectiles were thrown at Pittsburgh Police Officers. Reporters were attacked and their camera destroyed. What started as a peaceful demonstration, turned into a violent evening of destruction and looting throughout downtown Pittsburgh.”
“The violent actions of this young person were appalling,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “Mr. Bartels went downtown with the intent to incite panic and violence. His poor decisions put everyone, including those exercising their First Amendment
rights peacefully, in danger. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the city we all call home. Let this guilty plea send a message to others that we will use all of our investigative resources to bring to justice those who choose to participate in criminal activity.”
According to information provided to the court, on the afternoon of May 30, 2020, there was amarch/protest in downtown Pittsburgh. The defendant was part of a large crowd of protesters milling around the area of Centre Avenue above the PPG Paints Arena, near an unoccupied Pittsburgh Police SUV. At that time, Bartels removed a can of red spray paint from his backpack and sprayed an “A” on the police vehicle. Bartels then jumped on the hood of the vehicle, sprayed more paint on the vehicle, and stomped on the windshield, breaking it. Several people in the crowd began to cheer him on, and some people joined in hitting and kicking the vehicle. Bartels then jumped off the hood and attempted to break the passenger side window of the vehicle.
When interviewed by investigators, Bartels admitted to his conduct in initiating the attack on the police vehicle, and expressed remorse and regret for it. Bartels was charged federally in a criminal complaint on June 5, 2020. He was then indicted by the federal grand jury on June 9, 2020.
Judge Schwab scheduled sentencing for January 27, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Shaun E. Sweeney is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
U.S. Attorney Brady commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for conducting the investigation leading to the charge in this case.