Rep. Jamaal Bowman pleads guilty to misdemeanor for pulling fire alarm in House office building
Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor count for triggering a fire alarm as lawmakers scrambled to pass a funding bill before a government shutdown deadline.
He will pay a $1,000 fine and serve three months of probation, after which the false fire alarm charge is expected to be dismissed from his record under an agreement with prosecutors.
The alarm forced the evacuation of a House office building for over an hour on Sept. 30. The New York lawmaker acknowledged pulling the alarm but said it was a mistake as he tried to open an unexpectedly locked door in a rush to get to vote. The funding package was ultimately approved with most Republicans and almost all Democrats, including Bowman, supporting the bill.
“I really regret that this caused so much confusion and that people had to evacuate, and I just caused a disturbance. I hate that. It’s pretty embarrassing,” Bowman told reporters after his plea hearing.
Republicans have criticized Bowman, calling his explanation an “excuse" and pointing out he passed several police officers without telling them he had pulled the alarm. At the time of the evacuation, House Democrats were working to delay a vote on a funding bill to keep federal agencies open, saying they needed time to review a bill that Republicans abruptly released to avoid a shutdown.
Bowman said he didn't tell officers about the error because he was rushing to make the vote, not delay it.
The case was filed by the District of Columbia attorney general’s office, which said Bowman was “treated like anyone else who violates the law.”
Bowman will also formally apologize to Capitol police as part of his plea deal. He's set to return to court for a sentencing hearing on Jan. 29, when the charge will be dropped after the completion of his probation.