A 61-year-old nurse from North Carolina was arrested Thursday in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol after she dropped a key piece of evidence at the scene, an FBI agent said in a criminal complaint.
Authorities linked Sandra Lee Hodges to the insurrection after U.S. Capitol Police found her hotel room key card while cleaning up the Capitol grounds three days after the attack, according to the complaint unsealed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Hodges was arrested at her home in Hertford, court records show.
The town is on the Perquimans River that flows into the Albemarle Sound about 75 minutes from the Outer Banks.
Hodges was charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, picketing, and demonstrating in a Capitol building.
Court records don’t indicate if Hodges was jailed, if she is free pending a court appearance or if she has retained or been appointed a lawyer. She didn’t return a phone message from The Charlotte Observer on Thursday.
‘Sucked into the building’
Hodges drove to the Capitol on Jan. 5 from her home, the unidentified FBI agent says in the complaint. The FBI interviewed Hodges at her home in April 2023.
She planned to attend Donald Trump’s speech in Washington, D.C., on the morning of Jan. 6 but overslept, the FBI said.
She later encountered a crowd heading to the Capitol after Trump’s speech, according to the complaint.
Hodges said she “became swallowed by the crowd and walked with them to the U.S. Capitol building,” the FBI agent said. Once there, she claimed to have been “sucked into the building,” according to the agent.
During the FBI interview, Hodges downplayed her role in the violence, saying she briefly walked around before entering two rooms and sitting down in the second one.
There, she said, she saw someone rip something off a wall, realized “something was not right” and decided to leave, the FBI agent said.
She said she left with the help of police officers ushering people from the building.
That afternoon, however, Hodges joined the crowd massing in the West Plaza of the Capitol grounds, as shown in a still image from a publicly available video, the agent said in the complaint. She neared barricades defended by Metropolitan Police officers, the agent said.
As law enforcement officers deployed chemical irritants into the crowd to try to disperse them, Hodges yelled “Freedom!” toward the officers, the agent said.
“From her vantage point, Hodges was in position to see violence between rioters and law enforcement,” the agent said. That included rioters wrestling over barricades, and police “deploying crowd control methods against aggressive rioters.”
She stayed in the West Plaza as the police line collapsed, the agent said. A still image from another publicly available video shows Hodges without her glasses and holding her red Trump hat, according to the complaint.
At some point that afternoon, Hodges is shown sitting on a landing beside the northwest scaffolding that rioters earlier overran, the agent said.
She next went to the Upper West Terrace and stood near a line of police who were “attempting to restore order,” the agent said.
According to the complaint, Hodges then entered the Capitol building through the Senate Wing Door that rioters breached about an hour earlier.
As Hodges entered the building, the complaint says, “rioters were entering and leaving the building through the broken windows to either side of the Door, and an alarm was ringing near the doorway.”
Fifteen minutes later, video showed Hodges sitting on a couch and drinking from a can of Coca-Cola in the hideaway office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.
Far-right social media personality Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet also was in the office, according to the complaint.
Gionet picked up a phone and said, “Hello, U.S. Senate, we have a fraudulent election I would like to report. Yeah, we need to get our boy Donald J. Trump in office …” the complaint says.
After another rioter said, “Get Pence on the phone!,” Gionet responded, “Yeah, get Mike Pence on the phone,” according to the complaint.
Hodges later is shown on video banging her fist on a conference room table as a crowd chanted, “America First.”
As Gionet warned others not to break anything, Hodges told him, “I’m not breaking anything. This is our house.”