For one of the biggest moments of his life, Eric Bochene wore a faded white t-shirt and sat in an empty, green-walled conference room, straining to hear the volume from the computer. He grimaced as the virtual conference technology glitched. And he frequently voiced his frustration with his situation.
Bochene pleaded guilty in late August to a federal criminal charge for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack. But he didn’t stand in a courtroom. His lawyer wasn’t standing next to Bochene. Instead the attorney was on a separate virtual conference connection. And Bochene wasn’t permitted to choose his own outfit.
Though he was pleading guilty to only a misdemeanor charge, Bochene was required to appear remotely for his hearing from a holding room in the Broome County jail in Binghamton, NY. He wore his jail outfit, sitting beneath fluorescent lights, because Bochene isn’t a typical Jan. 6 defendant.
Bochene is one of a growing number of U.S. Capitol riot defendants who absconded and became fugitives after their arrests or initial court appearances.
The prosecution related to the Jan. 6, 2021 siege is the largest in American history, with approximately 1,100 criminal defendants from nearly every state. Though more than 600 of those defendants have pleaded guilty and dozens more have gone to trial, at least six became – or were — fugitives over the course of this summer. Some are still wanted by the FBI. Eric Bochene was one of them.
Bochene was charged with four federal counts and was accused of throwing a large item at a Capitol window, then moving amid the mob into the Capitol during the siege. After his arrest in May 2021, Bochene chose to represent himself in court.
He was defiant during some hearings, invoking language consistent with the sovereign citizen movement. In one set of court filings, Bochene unsuccessfully asked the court to pay him $75,000 an hour in fees for his legal services in his own case. Bochene signed one court filing with a red fingerprint. At another court hearing, he equivocated when his asked his age by the judge, responding “52 or 53.” Bochene, who was born in and lives in New York, also acknowledged he once reviewed the possibility of denouncing his U.S. citizenship.
As his trial date approached this summer, his defiance escalated. Bochene failed to appear for a mandatory pretrial status conference in Washington, D.C. on July 18. A judge issued a warrant for Bochene’s arrest, which led to Bochene’s capture by U.S. Marshals in the southern tier of New York and a court appearance in Binghamton on Aug. 2.
Bochene, who pleaded guilty to the charge of entering a restricted building, faces up to one year in prison at sentencing in November. But the plea agreement required that Bochene remain in the Broome County jail until the sentencing hearing, due to his failure to appear in court in July.
He told the judge he wasn’t happy about being required to remain in jail, but Bochene didn’t challenge the decision at his plea hearing.
The Florida fugitives
There are four U.S. Capitol riot fugitives from the Tampa, Florida area — all of whom are being pursued.
One of them, Christopher Worrell, was a member of the far-right Proud Boys organization. Worrell, 52, disappeared days before his sentencing hearing in August. The FBI has issued a wanted poster seeking tips to help locate him.
Worrell was found guilty in May on a series of federal charges, including assaulting or resisting police. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Worrell sprayed pepper gel at a line of police officers trying to defend the Capitol from the mob. Prosecutors said, “Worrell later bragged that he had “deployed a whole can” and was “f****** handing it to them.”
Worrell was on house arrest while awaiting his sentencing. Prosecutors had recommended the judge sentence Worrell to 14 years in prison.
Since his disappearance in August, a spokesperson for the FBI Tampa field office told CBS News “We continue to seek the public’s help in providing information” on his whereabouts.
The FBI is also searching for three other Tampa-area Jan. 6 defendants, including Jonathan Pollock, who has been on the run for nearly two years. The agency has offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to Pollock’s arrest. The reward money and a wanted poster, which features a series of images of Pollock, have yet to help agents track down the Lakeland, Fla., man.
The Justice Department alleges Pollock was part of a violent attack during the Capitol siege. Prosecutors said that Pollock “seized a riot shield from an officer and engaged in a tug-of-war-style conflict before pulling the officer down the steps, breaking the officer’s grasp and taking the shield.”
They also said that Pollock “then held the riot shield in front of him, charged up the steps and slammed into the police line.”
“Mr. Pollock is a fugitive. We are asking the public to provide information on his whereabouts so that we can safely bring him in to answer to the charges against him,” said FBI Tampa Special Agent in Charge David Walker.
Pollock’s sister, Olivia, is also wanted by the FBI. Olivia Pollock, who is a co-defendant in her brother’s case disappeared days before her trial was to begin in March.
A Washington, D.C. federal judge signed an arrest warrant for Olivia Pollock on Feb. 28, one week before her scheduled trial date.
Joseph Hutchinson, who is also a co-defendant of the Pollocks, is also being sought by federal authorities. The court has scheduled — then postponed — a series of hearings for Hutchinson, as federal agents have sought to track him down.
Hutchinson is accused of squaring off with police and throwing punches at officers during the Capitol attack.
Olivia Pollock and Hutchinson pleaded not guilty before absconding.
Two of Pollock’s other co-defendants have been found guilty in their cases. Michael Perkins, 39, and Joshua Doolin, 25, were each convicted of civil disorder, a felony, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.
Some of the Jan. 6 defendants who have failed to show in court have been quickly recaptured.
Marc Bru of Vancouver, Washington, failed to appear for a June 30 hearing in his case, but allegedly continued to post social media messages about the prosecution and the federal search for his whereabouts, as agents sought to track him down.
Justice Department prosecutors said, during the search for Bru, Bru shared tweets about his case that said, “I’m drawing a f*** line in the sand” “I’d rather die than submit to f*** tyrants.” Nearly a month later, authorities found Bru in Montana.
A Justice Department court filing said “the defendant encountered Montana state police officers after he was involved in a car accident in which he states he accidentally drove into a ditch and was then hit by a drunk driver. The defendant informed the responding Montana state police officers that he did not have a valid license or car insurance, and that he had a federal warrant out for his arrest. The officers arrested the defendant, confirmed the existence of the federal arrest warrant, notified the U.S. Marshals Service.”
Bru was charged with obstruction and entering a restricted building two months after the January 6th attack. Bru had opted to represent himself in his case, before allegedly absconding.
Defendants who fail to show in court and run from authorities risk facing stiffer or additional charges.
Lucius Outlaw, a Howard University associate law professor and former federal defender, said the Jan. 6 defendants will face increased penalties once they’re captured.
“If you’re going to run, you can get hit with additional charges on top of their charges you’re already facing,” Outlaw told CBS News. ” If you’re convicted, the judge is certainly going to take into account that you did not appear in court when you were supposed to and had to be called into court by the U.S. Marshals.”
Nearly 1,100 people have been arrested in the U.S. Capitol siege investigation, and hundreds more arrests are still expected.
An FBI spokesperson told CBS News, “The FBI is using its full investigative resources and working closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to pursue those responsible for the U.S. Capitol violence on January 6, 2021.”
Rob Legare contributed to this report