CHARLESTON – Federal authorities have arrested a couple of Summerville neighbors, including a lawyer at George Sink’s personal injury law firm, accused of storming the U.S. capital on January 6, 2021.
Attorney David Charles Johnston, 66, and handyman Chadwick Gordon Clifton, 47, were arraigned in Charleston’s federal courthouse hours after their May 20 arrests. The couple is the latest of 16 South Carolingians and more than 800 Americans from all 50 states facing charges in connection with the violence at the Capitol last year.
The arrests come just 24 hours after federal authorities assembled three members of a Rock Hill family on similar charges on Jan. 6. Most of South Carolina’s defendants were supporters of then-President Donald Trump, who traveled to Washington, DC that day to hear him trumpet side-refuted allegations that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election with strategic voter fraud in states on the battlefield.
Thousands marched on the Capitol after Trump’s demonstration and overpowered the small police force guarding the building and streaming through the building’s halls. Members of Congress fled to safety before returning later that evening to formally confirm Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Johnston and Clifton, who live a few doors down on a cul-de-sac in Summerville, were among the crowd that day and walked into the Capitol together wearing Trump memorabilia, investigators claim. Mobile phone GPS data, Facebook and TikTok postings and Capitol surveillance images place them inside the building during the earliest stages of the storm, charging documents said. The couple remained inside between 2.32pm and 2.48pm, documents document.
Four FBI investigators, including at least three of Clifton’s colleagues at a property maintenance firm in Mount Pleasant, helped identify him to investigators, collection documents say.
Investigators also searched Clifton’s Facebook records and found messages bragging about his involvement.
One day after the riot, he described January 6 as a “fantastic day” and told a friend he was on his way home, investigators said.
“We’re at war, and 95% of the population does not even know it,” Clifton wrote in another Facebook post on January 9, 2021. “When I went to DC, it was an experience of a lifetime. I’m sorry I went inside a broken door where we could have the potential for him (sic) to get in trouble, but I was a patriot and I made sure people did not ruin things and pick up trash. ”
Johnston, a graduate lawyer at Campbell University, was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 2012 and remains a licensed attorney with a good reputation, online records show.
The law firm of George Sink, known in South Carolina for its ubiquitous television commercials, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Johnston is prominent on the company’s website. In a two-minute video posted on his biography page, Johnston says he is a married father of four whose love of riding motorcycles gives him an advantage in personal injury cases involving motorcyclists.
His arrest could trigger an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, a state agency that investigates lawyers’ behavior and forwards its findings to the state Supreme Court for possible discipline.
The office’s ears turn when lawyers are accused of breaking laws or codes of ethics. It has the power to initiate investigations based on news reports, criminal charges or complaints filed against a lawyer’s conduct.
“Everyone gets speeding tickets and that sort of thing,” said Barbara Seymour, a former deputy disciplinary lawyer at ODC. “But when a lawyer violates the law, it calls into question the integrity of the legal profession, but also the suitability of that lawyer to practice law.”
This week’s arrests show that the January 6 federal investigation is still ongoing even after 16 months. Agents have tracked down members of the mob using tipsters, surveillance footage, social media posts and cell phone GPS data.
Seven of South Carolina’s defendants have already been convicted, most of whom have received sentences of probation or house arrest after agreeing to indictments with prosecutors.
Those who have been convicted expressed remorse to federal judges in Washington for their part in an election protest that turned into riots that briefly disrupted the peaceful transition of power in the country’s capital.
The rest are still considering whether to plead guilty or take their charges to court.
Only one SC defendant, Little River construction worker Nicholas Languerand, has been sentenced to prison in connection with Jan. 6. Languerand, a QAnon conspiracy theorist with a history of threats to police, will spend nearly four years behind bars for throwing objects at officers guarding a Capitol entrance that day.