As I wrote before, so many of the January 6th rioters gleefully posted vivid accounts of what they did on that day on social media that they pretty much eliminated any reasonable legal defense that could be mounted in court. The only option left was to throw themselves at the mercy of the courts, using permutations of “I am really sorry”, “I was stupid”, and “I was misled by Trump and others”. That defense is getting mixed results.
A Capitol rioter who attacked police officers working to hold back the angry pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 was sentenced Friday to more than five years behind bars, the most so far for anyone sentenced in the insurrection.
Robert Palmer, 54, of Largo, Florida, wept as he told U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan that he recently watched a video of his actions that day and could not believe what he was seeing.
“Your honor. I’m really really ashamed of what I did,” he said through tears.
Palmer made his way to the front line during the chaos and started to attack, throwing a wooden plank, spraying a fire extinguisher, then hurling it when it was done. He rooted around for other objects, prosecutors said. He was briefly peppersprayed by police before he attacked officers again with a pole. He pleaded guilty to attacking officers.
Palmer said in a handwritten letter to the judge that he felt betrayed by Trump and his allies who fed them conspiracy theories.
“Trump supporters were lied to by those at the time who had great power,” he wrote. “They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny.”
Before Palmer’s sentencing of 63 months, the longest prison term handed down for a Capitol rioter was 41 months. That was the sentence received by both Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man who wore a horned fur hat, bare chest and face paint inside the Capitol; and New Jersey gym owner Scott Fairlamb, the first person to be sentenced for assaulting a law enforcement officer during the riot.
A college student got off leniently and was sentenced to one month, though she did get a dressing down from the judge.
A college student who posted online that “Infamy is just as good as fame” after she climbed through a broken window at Capitol was sentenced to a month in jail for her actions. Gracyn Courtright, 23, of Hurricane, West Virginia, didn’t injure anyone, though, and her sentence reflected that.
Courtright, 23, of Hurricane, West Virginia, sobbed as she told U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper that “if I could take back anything in my life it would be my actions on Jan. 6.”
She posted photos of herself online — like scores of other rioters — reveling in the moment. “Can’t wait to tell my grandkids I was here!” she wrote, and inside the Senate chamber, she was photographed holding a “Members only” sign.
“I will never be the same girl again,” the University of Kentucky student said through tears. “This has changed me completely.”
Participating in a democracy isn’t like going to a University of Kentucky game and “rooting for a team just because of the color of their jerseys,” the judge said. “It’s certainly not resorting to violence when your team doesn’t win the game,” he told Courtright.
I suspect that some of the people felt that the whole thing was a lark that would be laughed off by the authorities. Others who knew that what they were doing was wrong may have felt that the sheer size of the numbers taking part provided some kind of immunity, that individuals could not be singled out for punishment. That may have worked if they did not incriminate themselves on social media. Then there are those who felt that Trump would never allow his loyal supporters be punished and would somehow take action on their behalf, which just shows how clueless they are since Trump has always been notorious for not caring what happens to people who no longer serve his purposes.
I am not sure how many of these self-reproaches are genuine and how many are because their lawyers told them that they had no other option. I suspect that many of these people have never been to prison and never expected to. It would be interesting to follow up and see what they think after they serve out their sentences.