Toughest sentence yet for Capitol rioter: More than 5 years
A Capitol rioter who attacked police officers working to keep back the angry 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 weeping.
Palmer was one of a few rioters sentenced on Friday in District of Columbia court for their actions on Jan. 6 when the angry mob descended after a rally by then-President Donald Trump to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Scores of police were beaten and blooded, five people died and there was about $1.5 million in damage done to the U.S. Capitol. Palmer is the 65th defendant to be sentenced overall. More than 700 people have been charged.
Before Palmer’s sentencing, 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.
"It has to be made clear … trying to stop the peaceful transition of power and assaulting law enforcement officers is going to be met with certain punishment," the judge said. "There are going to be consequences. I’m not making an example of you. I’m sentencing you for the conduct you did."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A college student who posted online that "Infamy is just as good as fame" after she climbed through a broken window at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has been sentenced to a month behind bars for her actions.
Gracyn 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 was among the throng of pro-Trump rioters who descended on the Capitol to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory last year. 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."
After the riot, she dug in on social media when she was criticized for her actions, before eventually deleting her accounts. Courtright is among the youngest of those publicly charged in the Capitol riot so far, out of more than 700 criminal cases.
Courtright asked the judge that she be allowed to finish her final semester of college, but said that the internet images of her that day, even though her accounts are deleted, will haunt her forever. People won’t see the hardworking student who was on the dean’s list, she said.
"They will only see the girl who trespassed and took pictures to prove they were there. And posted pictures thinking she was just so cool," Courtright said.
Courtright’s sentencing was delayed briefly because a nurse had to determine she was OK to proceed, and she gave her statement sitting down.
Her attorney on Friday argued she had no idea what she was doing and that she wasn’t a political activist — she didn’t even vote in the election she was there to protest. The judge seized on that during his remarks.
"That is your choice obviously, but in my view — if any citizen wants to participate in our democracy, casting a vote is the price of admission," he said. "Because when you do that, you have to study the issues and the candidates, learn what their policies are, figure out how those policies are affecting your community."
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.
Cooper also noted that Courtright made it to the floor of the U.S. Senate at about the exact time that Ashli Babbitt, on the House, side was shot dead.
"Do you know how many people died on Jan. 6, 5. Including Ms. Babbitt?" he asked. "Five."
"Do you know how many Capitol police officers committed suicide after Jan. 6, harmed from the trauma of that day? Four," the judge added. "So was it cool to have been there?"
"No," she answered emphatically.
Still, the judge said the recommended six months in prison was too high and sentenced her instead to 30 days, one year of supervised release, and 60 hours of community service.
He said he hoped she could pull her life together and that she "should not be judged by the worst mistake you have made in your life."