by Colleen Long | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Capitol rioters who attacked police officers working to stop a pro-Trump mob on January 6 were sentenced on Friday to more than five years in prison, far more than anyone sentenced in rebellion .
Robert Palmer, 54, of Largo, Florida, wept and told US District Judge Tanya Chutkan that he recently saw a video of his actions that day and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “respect you. I’m really ashamed of what I did,” he said through tears.
Palmer was one of several rioters who were sentenced for their actions in a Colombian court on Friday, when angry crowds descended on then-President Donald Trump after a rally to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Scores of police were beaten and bled, five people died, and the US Capitol lost nearly $1.5 million. Palmer is the 65th defendant overall. More than 700 people have been charged.
A college student who posted online that “infamy is as good as fame” after climbing through a broken window at the Capitol was sentenced to one month in prison for her actions. However, 23-year-old Gracien Courtwright of Hurricane, West Virginia, did not hurt anyone, and her sentence shows the same.
But Palmer made his way to the front line during the chaos and began to attack, throwing a wooden plank, spraying a fire extinguisher, then throwing it when it was done. Prosecutors said he took root for other items. The officers were briefly sprayed with pepper by the police before attacking them again with a stick. He confessed to assaulting the officers.
Palmer said in a handwritten letter to the judge that he was betrayed by Trump and his aides who fed him conspiracy theories.
“Trump supporters lied to those who had great power at the time,” he wrote. “They kept spreading false stories about the election of piracy and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up against tyranny.”
Palmer, who was held in a D.C. prison amid fetid conditions, which were reviewed by officials, said it was not appropriate that he should be punished so harshly when the gangsters were not even behind bars.
The judges agreed – to a point. “It’s true that the people who extorted and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action have not been charged,” she said. “It is not a court decision. I have my own views but they are not relevant.”
Prior to Palmer’s 63-month sentence, the longest prison sentence for a Capitol rioter was 41 months. That was the sentence received by both, Jacob Chansley of Arizona, who wore a horned fur hat, bare chest, and face paint inside the Capitol; And Scott Fairlamb, the owner of a New Jersey gym, is the first to be sentenced for assaulting a law enforcement officer during the riots.
“It should be clarified … that some punishment will be given for attempting to prevent a peaceful transition of power and attacking law enforcement officers,” the judge said. “There are going to be consequences. I’m not making up your example. I am punishing you for your conduct.”
Courtwright, 23, of Hurricane, West Virginia, told US District Court Judge Christopher Cooper that “if I can take anything back in my life, it will be my action on January 6th.”
She posted pictures of herself online – like scores of other rioters – reveling in the moment. “I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren that I was here!” She wrote, and inside the Senate chamber, she was photographed holding a “members only” sign.
“I’ll never be the same girl again,” said the University of Kentucky student through tears. “It has completely changed me.”
After the riots, she drew criticism for her actions on social media, before eventually deleting her accounts. Courtright is one of the youngest ever accused in the Capital riots.
Her lawyer argued Friday that she didn’t know what she was doing and was not a political activist – she didn’t even vote in the election she went there to protest. The judge held onto him during his remarks.
“It’s your choice, but in my view – if any citizen wants to participate in our democracy, then voting is the price of admission,” he said. “Because when you do that, you have to study the issues and candidates, find out what their policies are, find out how those policies are affecting your community.”
The judge said that participating in democracy is not the same as going to a University of Kentucky game and being “vested to a team just because of the color of their jersey.” “It’s certainly not resorting to violence when your team doesn’t win the game,” he told Courtright.
Cooper also noted that Courtwright appeared on the floor of the US Senate about the exact time Ashley Babbitt was shot dead on behalf of the House.
“Do you know how many people were killed on January 6th, 5th, including Ms. Babbitt?” He asked. “Five.”
“Do you know how many Capitol police officers committed suicide after January 6, hurt by the trauma of that day? Four,” said the judge. “So was it nice to be there?”
“No,” he replied loudly.
Still, the judge said the recommended six months in prison was too much and instead sentenced him to 30 days, one year of supervised release, and 60 hours of community service.
She added that she hopes she can pull her life together and that she shouldn’t be judged by “the biggest mistake you’ve made in your life.”