In a hearing in federal court in Washington, Justice Royce Lamberth said the insurgency was a “disgrace” and forcefully berated the “utter nonsense” of some Republican lawmakers and other right-wing figures who whitewash what happened.
Anna Morgan-Lloyd, 49, from rural Indiana, pleaded guilty to a single felony for trespassing inside the Capitol in the crowd on Jan.6. She was also fined $ 500.
Lamberth said Morgan-Lloyd avoided jail because she did not participate in the violence and sentenced those who did. He warned the other defendants that he would likely sentence them to jail if they continued to defend their behavior on Capitol Hill.
Still, the judge said what happened on January 6 was “a serious crime” and a “shame” for the country. He praised the media for their coverage of the attack and stressed that “a large part of the public remains outraged by what happened”.
“It was not a peaceful demonstration (…) it was not by accident that it became violent”, he declared.
Reference point in the survey
It’s a landmark moment in the massive federal investigation that swelled to include nearly 500 defendants from 43 states.
As the full-scale investigation nears six months, the Justice Department has decided to resolve some of the hundreds of federal cases. Prosecutors had secured seven guilty pleas as of Wednesday afternoon and have more in the coming weeks, giving insight into behind-the-scenes negotiations and how dozens of defendants could likely face years in prison, according to their actions during the siege.
The initial set of plea deals and condemnation are likely to serve as a wake-up call as the nationwide net continues in what the Justice Department has described as one of its largest investigations ever and a major law enforcement effort to combat domestic terrorism. Also on Wednesday, an accused of conspiracy Oath Keeper pleaded guilty.
Morgan-Lloyd’s conviction on Wednesday will not set the standard for most riot cases, as Lamberth noted. But hundreds of other rioters are charged with felonies for assaulting police, bringing weapons to the Capitol, destroying property, or – if they entered protected areas of the building – obstructing official congressional procedures to certify the vote. of the Electoral College. So far, prosecutors appear unwilling to eliminate this level of accusation.
A man who entered the Senate chamber for 15 minutes faces a sentence of 15 to 21 months in prison, according to court records. Another man who allegedly posed for photos with his feet on a desk in the office of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, carried a taser and stole an envelope from the office, could face up to six years or more in prison, prosecutors said.
First to be sentenced
Morgan-Lloyd was initially charged with four federal crimes, but court records indicate she reached a deal with prosecutors, who recommended three years probation, a $ 500 fine to cover damage to the Capitol complex and 40 hours of community service.
The Justice Department has outlined several factors for which incarceration is not warranted: Morgan-Lloyd did not plan or coordinate with others until January 6; she did not become violent during the riot; she had only been in a corridor for 10 minutes; she immediately cooperated with the investigators when they came knocking on the door; she expressed deep regret; and she has no criminal record.
On the day of the attack, Morgan-Lloyd posted on Facebook that it was the “best day ever,” according to her court documents, but before sentencing she sent a letter to the judge saying she had reshaped his political views since his arrest and was grappling with the denial of a family member.
She said she had spent her entire life in a “very small town” in southern Indiana, which gave her a “protected life” that made her disconnected from “what other people’s lives are like. in our country “. She claimed she had undergone a political transformation after her lawyer urged her to learn about racial inequalities by reading books and watching movies.
It is common for defendants in criminal cases to tell judges before sentencing that they have experienced changes of mind, in an effort to obtain a light sentence. Morgan-Lloyd made the case in his letter, apologized for his crimes and disowned the rioters who had attacked police officers and ransacked the building.
“I was ashamed that anything meant to show support for the president had turned violent,” Morgan-Lloyd wrote to the judge. “This is not the way to prove anything. At first it didn’t occur to me, but later I realized that if every person like me who was not violent was removed from this crowd, those who were violent might lose. the courage to do what they did. For this I am sorry and I take responsibility. I never intended to help people act violently.
After watching “Schindler’s List,” she criticized her son-in-law for downplaying the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. She also said she now opposes the death penalty after reading “Just Mercy,” a book about wrongful convictions of black Americans.
“I learned that although we live in a wonderful country, things still have to improve,” Morgan-Lloyd said. “People of all colors should feel as safe as I do walking the streets. “
His lawyer, Heather Shaner, told CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday that Morgan-Lloyd “was misinformed and misinformed” before storming the Capitol, but the book and film taught him ” the relationship between the rights of the citizen and the responsibility of the citizen ”.
Other defendants of the Capitol riots have already pleaded guilty to similar low-level charges, but due to the way judges determine when convictions can be handed down, Morgan-Lloyd has been the first.
Others, Bryan Ivey of Tennessee and married couple Jessica and Joshua Bustle of Virginia, also agreed to allow law enforcement to review their social media accounts and said they would pay $ 500 each in compensation for damage caused to the Capitol by the crowd. The Justice Department estimated the damage at $ 1.5 million, according to court records. Robert Reeder, a man from Maryland who previously worked for the Transportation Security Administration, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony charge of illegally demonstrating inside the Capitol.
The investigation continues
Even with a rioter case closed in court, investigators are still chasing hundreds of leads and looking for dozens of people. Additionally, a person filmed leaving homemade bombs near Capitol Hill has yet to be located.
Prosecutors have charged additional defendants almost every day since the attack and recently indicated in court records that they continue to prosecute up to 100 more.
The cases, taken together, have shed some light on the political inclinations of pro-Trump rioters, and the Justice Department noted that the threat of right-wing rhetoric pushing ideas of electoral fraud and claiming the presidency from Joe Biden did not calm down. .
Lawyers for one defendant said he had watched Fox News for six consecutive months and contracted “Foxitis”. Another rioter, who allegedly shouted at the police, “You like to protect pedophiles,” an apparent reference to QAnon’s baseless conspiracy theory, was convicted in 2010 on a charge of unlawful sex with a minor, and of ‘others accused of assaulting the police themselves.
Prosecutors also continued to expand conspiracy charges against far-right groups they said coordinated and planned to disrupt Congress’ certification of the presidential vote. More than 50 defendants have been linked to far-right groups, and at least two groups of suspected conspirators are accused of finding contacts online, then discussing how they would travel across the country with guns fire for the event.
This story is out and will be updated.