New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman pleaded guilty to a criminal charge in D.C Superior Court on Thursday for pulling a fire alarm in a House office building ahead of a government spending vote last month.
Bowman, 47, reportedly turned himself in on Thursday morning after D.C. Assistant Attorney General Peter Saba charged him with one misdemeanor count of falsely pulling a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building on September 30.
“What I did was against D.C. law,” Bowman said, according to Fox News. “As I said from the very beginning, I was not trying to disrupt any congressional proceedings. I’m glad the investigation yielded that.”
Just before the lower chamber of Congress voted on a spending bill last month to avert a government shutdown, the procedure came to a temporary halt when the fire alarm went off.
Bowman told Capitol Police he was on his way to the vote when he pulled the fire alarm, believing it would open an exit door in the House building.
According to the arrest warrant, Bowman told authorities he saw the nearby doors with a sign that said, “emergency exit only push to open,” so “he pushed on the door and pulled the lever next to it, which must have been the alarm.”
“[Bowman] advised that usually when votes are called, all doors are open, and that door is usually open (the second-floor door leading to Independence Ave). The defendant further stated that this door was a usual door he uses. The defendant advised that he then went to a Dem (Democratic) meeting and a vote at the Capitol, then the House Sergeant at Arms contacted him,” the warrant states, according to Fox News.
The Capitol Police opened an investigation after the firm alarm led to an evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building. The inquiry resulted in a criminal referral to the D.C. prosecutor.
“We finished our investigation,” the Capitol Police told The Daily Wire. “Our agents gathered all the evidence, packaged it up, and sent the entire case with charges to prosecutors for their consideration.”
The charges levied against Bowman carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail, but the D.C. Attorney General’s Office said the congressman “is pleading guilty and has agreed to pay the maximum fine” — which is $1,000 — and Bowman will issue a formal apology to the Capitol Police.
If Bowman sticks to the terms of the deal, which includes three months probation, prosecutors will drop the charge at a sentencing hearing on January 29, according to the plea deal reported by Reuters.
Bowman, a former teacher representing a district covering part of New York City and Westchester County, told reporters before the arraignment, “Hell no” when asked if he meant to pull the fire alarm, but asserted he was “taking responsibility” for his actions.