Prosecutors in the District of Columbia on Wednesday charged Representative Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, with setting off a false fire alarm in a House office building last month in an episode that added to a day of mayhem on Capitol Hill as Congress rushed to avoid a government shutdown.
Mr. Bowman will plead guilty to the single false fire alarm charge, and has agreed to pay the maximum fine of $1,000, according to Gabriel Shoglow-Rubenstein, a spokesman for the D.C. attorney general’s office. Any charges will be dropped in three months if Mr. Bowman provides a formal apology to the Capitol Police and pays the fine, as is standard with such charges.
Mr. Bowman is expected to be booked, fingerprinted, photographed and processed by the U.S. Capitol Police on Thursday.
The charges come about three weeks after Mr. Bowman was caught on video setting off the alarm during a vote on the House floor. At the time, Democrats were stalling for time to read through a hastily put together Republican-written stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown that was to commence in just hours. Mr. Bowman was accused of intentionally pulling the alarm to cause a delay, but he claimed it was accidental.
“I’m thankful for the quick resolution from the District of Columbia attorney general’s office on this issue,” Mr. Bowman said on Wednesday in a statement responding to the charge. “I am responsible for activating a fire alarm, I will be paying the fine issued and look forward to these charges being ultimately dropped.”
Mr. Bowman also said he was “grateful” that the Capitol Police general counsel’s office “agreed I did not obstruct nor intend to obstruct any House vote or proceedings,” but no such determination was made public. The attorney general’s office does not handle obstruction charges, which are felonies.
“Congressman Bowman was treated like anyone else who violates the law in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Shoglow-Rubenstein said in a statement. “Based on the evidence presented by Capitol Police, we charged the only crime that we have jurisdiction to prosecute.”
On Sept. 30, Mr. Bowman pulled a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building opposite the Capitol, prompting an evacuation, as he was making his way to a vote on the House floor on the day government funding was set to run out.
Democrats were scrambling at the time to read the bill under consideration, which had just been released by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and decide whether to support it. They had called a vote to buy more time to examine the legislation, which ultimately passed with more Democrats voting for it than Republicans.
Later that day, Mr. Bowman said in a statement that he had not intended to set off the alarm. He had done so by accident, he said, while he was rushing to make a vote and found that the door he usually exited from to head to the Capitol would not open.
“I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door. I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused,” Mr. Bowman said at the time. “But I want to be very clear: This was not me, in any way, trying to delay any vote. It was the exact opposite — I was trying urgently to get to a vote.”
A Capitol Police affidavit states that security footage shows Mr. Bowman trying to push open one side of the exit door. When it did not open, he tried the other side, which did not open either. He then turned to his left, looked at the fire alarm and pulled it.
The Capitol Police opened an investigation and shared their evidence with prosecutors upon its conclusion.
“Representative Bowman’s excuse does not pass the sniff test,” said Representative Bryan Steil, Republican of Wisconsin and the chairman of the Administration Committee, which oversees the Capitol Police and which opened its own investigation into the incident. “After pulling the fire alarm, Representative Bowman fled the scene, passed by multiple Capitol Police officers and had every opportunity to alert U.S.C.P. of his mistake.”
Mr. Steil added that he encouraged the House Ethics Committee to “further pursue this matter.”