WASHINGTON — A Pennsylvania woman who steered a group of rioters toward Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6, 2021, and directed others inside the Capitol to steal a laptop computer was sentenced in Federal District Court in Washington on Thursday to three years in prison.
The woman, Riley June Williams, 24, was convicted in November of several charges including felony civil disorder and impeding officers trying to defend the Capitol Rotunda. The jury deadlocked on whether she had played a role in the theft of the computer, which Ms. Pelosi used for Zoom calls during the coronavirus pandemic, and whether her actions amounted to obstruction of Congress’s certification of the 2020 electoral vote.
Prosecutors reiterated their view on Thursday that Ms. Williams had acted as an “accelerant” at the Capitol attack by marshaling those around her to form a “human battering ram,” pushing through police lines and ultimately forcing their way into the House speaker’s office.
They said that Ms. Williams, who was 22 at the time, had become “obsessed” with the far-right activist Nick Fuentes and the Groyper Army, a white nationalist organization that was a vocal proponent of the false claim that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election. Ms. Williams boasted about stealing items from the speaker’s office while taking great pains to cover her tracks in the weeks after the riot, prosecutors said.
Ms. Williams’s lawyer, Lori J. Ulrich, told Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Ms. Williams had been “played and manipulated” at an impressionable age and led to believe false claims about the election that were perpetuated by a number of “grown, adult men” such as Mr. Fuentes, her father and Mr. Trump.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
Ms. Williams said in brief remarks on Thursday that she had become “addicted to the internet” at the time and was seeking acceptance and validation from family and peers when she joined the mob at the Capitol.
“I barely recognize the stupid girl who was yelling at police,” she said.
Judge Jackson delivered a scathing rebuke, discounting claims that Ms. Williams was too young to be held accountable or too slight to have played a dangerous role in confrontations with the police.
The judge described Ms. Williams as acting “like a coxswain on a crew team” during the 90 minutes she spent in the Capitol, citing videos showing her “handpicking” larger, better equipped rioters wearing protective gear, to whom “she gave directions about where to go and how to behave from the minute she got in.”
“She was not just a little waif blowing in the wind,” Judge Jackson said.
Before the hearing, federal prosecutors had sought a sentence of more than seven years, arguing that Ms. Williams had bragged online about her “good tactics” maneuvering others throughout the Capitol. At one point, she told her father they needed to return to Washington on Jan. 20 to “finish the job,” prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also revisited evidence shown in the trial that Ms. Williams had successfully prevented investigators from accessing reams of her text messages and social media posts after the riot, using commercial-grade software to wipe her laptop in what they called an “extensive, calculated and tech-savvy” effort.
They urged the judge on Thursday to impose a sentence of at least five years. Ms. Ulrich proposed a sentence of one year and one day.
Before reading the sentence, Judge Jackson listed more than a dozen figures who she said had made positive contributions at a young age, such as Kobe Bryant and Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost of Florida. The judge repeated Ms. Williams’s words that there was “no justification or excuse” for her conduct.
In addition to Ms. Williams’s three-year sentence, Judge Jackson ordered that she serve another 36 months on supervised release. Any engagement with Mr. Fuentes or other political figures that went beyond protected speech during that period would be considered a violation of her release terms, the judge said.
Source: Read Full Article