Pro-Trump mob storms Capitol
Pro-Trump protesters storm past police into the Capitol. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A California man accused of attacking police guarding the U.S. Capitol with bear spray and a large metal sign during the Jan. 6 riot pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to federal charges including riot-related felonies.

During a video hearing before U.S. District Judge John Bates, Maria Jacob, a lawyer for accused rioter Sean McHugh, told the court her client was entering not guilty pleas to all charges currently pending against him, which include assaulting police using a dangerous weapon and engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds or in the building.

McHugh, 34, who listed an address in Auburn near Sacramento on an airplane reservation he made for a Jan. 5 flight to Washington, is being held in pre-trial detention.

More than 535 people face charges for taking part in the riot. Then-President Donald Trump made false claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election because of widespread electoral fraud. The riot interrupted the formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

Federal prosecutor Jacob Strain told the court the government would be willing to engage in plea negotiations in McHugh’s case. Judge Bates set a further hearing for September 30.

In an affidavit laying out the grounds for McHugh’s arrest, an FBI agent said that videos taken during the riot show McHugh “assaulting” Capitol Police officers by shoving a large metal sign at them and spraying them with what the affidavit described as an “unknown chemical.”

A July 7 indictment explicitly alleged McHugh attacked police with bear spray.

The FBI said McHugh was currently on probation following a 2018 conviction for driving under the influence. A Superior Court official in California’s Placer County confirmed to Reuters that McHugh in 2010 had pleaded guilty to engaging in unlawful sex with a minor.