"Sedition Panda" convicted of assaulting officer on Jan. 6

Jesse James Rumson, the man who dressed in a panda costume as he took part in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, has been convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer, according to court documents. 

Earlier this month, Rumson waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead for bench trial. He was convicted on all eight counts by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols Friday for assaulting and resisting Prince George’s County Cpl. Scott Ainsworth and for broader disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. Rumson is scheduled to be sentenced in September. 

File: Jesse James Runson, Jan. 6 defendant, U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021

Government exhibit

After rioters broke a door in the Senate wing on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors said Rumson hopped over railings and was “among the first approximately twenty” to access the building through that entryway. Pictures from that day show Rumson, wearing a panda costume head and wielding a white flag that read, in part, “Don’t tread on me.” Charging papers said he was referred to as “#SeditionPanda” by some online communities.

While he was inside the Capitol, prosecutors said Rumson lost his panda head and was apparently handcuffed before being forced out of the Capitol through another door. 

But in court documents, prosecutors presented photographic evidence that appeared to show rioters helping remove the handcuffs from Rumson’s wrists. 

File: Jan. 6 defendant Jesse James Runson “celebrates as handcuffs are removed,” according to court documents, Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol.

Government exhibit

Once freed, he allegedly ran through the crowd gathered outside the Capitol and towards a line of officers defending the building. He then allegedly grabbed an officer’s mask, “which forced the officer’s head and neck back and upwards.” 

Prosecutors showed multiple images of Rumson both with and without the panda headpiece. Rumson was arrested in February 2023, more than two years after the assault on the Capitol. 

Ainsworth, the officer who was attacked, testified about the assault by Rumson last week, according to NBC News.  

Jan. 6, 2021, defendant Jesse James Runson

Department of Justice

The Justice Department has prosecuted more than 1,200 criminal cases in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol assault. Of those, more than 700 had pleaded guilty to various charges, and scores more have been convicted. 

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