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‘I did cheer and applaud:' Utah woman pleads guilty to Capitol riot charge

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Posted at 11:47 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 15:13:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A Kaysville piano instructor pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor related to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Janet Buhler, 56, admitted to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing at the Capitol building. She faces up to six months in prison when she’s sentenced June 1.

The judge almost scrapped the deal after hearing Buhler’s descriptions of her actions that day.

Buhler, who told the judge she has one bachelor’s degree in fashion design, is a credit away from earning a second bachelor’s in piano performance and works as a piano teacher and accompanist, traveled to Washington with her step-son-in-law, former Salt Lake City police detective Michael Lee Hardin.

Buhler said she was worried Congress wasn’t listening.

“I felt like they didn’t understand that there was a concern that there was an election that was questionable,” Buhler told Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, over teleconferencing software. “And I just felt like if they knew people were out there, that they might take a second look.”

Multiple reviews and legal challenges have found no significant fraud in the 2020 election.

“Yes, I did cheer and applaud” rioters breaking into the Capitol, Buhler acknowledged.

“My son-in-law wanted to take a picture,” she continued.

“He can be a little hot headed and I didn’t want him to do anything he shouldn’t do,” Buhler added.

Buhler also said she didn’t see any barricades.

Kollar-Kotelly said Buhler was describing herself like a tourist. The charge she was supposed to plead guilty to is reserved for trespassers or rioters.

“Government, I think this is very close,” the judge said of the facts Buhler was offering. “I’m almost inclined not to accept” the guilty plea.

After a five minute break, Buhler returned and acknowledged she knew was wasn’t supposed to be in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Kollar-Kotelly then accepted the plea.

Toquerville resident Willard Jake Peart, who traveled to Washington separately from Buhler and Hardin, pleaded guilty to the same charge Wednesday. If similar cases are any guide, Peart and Buhler are likely to receive probation rather than prison.

Hardin has a hearing later this month. He has indicated he will plead guilty then. Hardin, Buhler and Peart all remain free.