“It has become evident to me in the riot cases that many of the defendants who are pleading guilty are not truly accepting responsibility,” District Judge Thomas Hogan said.
“They seem to me to be trying to get this out of the way as quickly and as inexpensively as possible — stating whatever they have to say in the guilty plea, getting probation, and hoping that would be the end of it,” he added.
Hogan said that defendants who claimed they didn’t realize the severity of the riot are “trying to escape responsibility,” and that “other participants in that riot who are guilty of an infraction… can expect to receive jail time.”
His comments came during the sentencing for Robert Reeder, of Maryland, who pleaded guilty in June to unlawfully demonstrating inside the Capitol. Hogan sentenced Reeder to three months in jail, and ordered that Reeder pay $500 for damages to the Capitol complex.
Though defendants who have pleaded guilty are not required to apologize, it could persuade a judge to show leniency at sentencing. Prosecutors have already cited defiant comments from some rioters to argue that they deserve time behind bars, and this sentence could set a benchmark for judges as they deal with other low-level cases with defendants who have denied the severity of the insurrection.
Reeder was initially scheduled to be sentenced in August, but the hearing was abruptly postponed after the online group known as the Sedition Hunters tweeted newly discovered clips and photos, apparently showing Reeder pushing a police officer outside the Capitol building.
Though the plea deal prosecutors signed with Reeder gave the Justice Department the chance to charge Reeder for the assault, they declined to do so. Instead, prosecutors increased their recommended sentence to six months in jail, siting what they called a “rewrite of reality” in Reeder’s claims to the FBI that he was nonviolent at the riot, not a Trump supporter and believed he had permission to enter the Capitol.
In an emotional testimony, Reeder, at times crying, described losing his family, his job and his church community after January 6.
“I am embarrassed. I am in shame,” Reeder said. “The hurt that I have caused to other people, not just to myself … has left a permanent stain on me, society, the country, and I don’t want to be ever remembered for being part of that crowd. I accept full responsibility for being there. I want you to know that it was not only a mistake, but the biggest mistake of my life. I wish I had a chance to take it back and redeem myself.”
Reeder said that his son “doesn’t want to go to school anymore because he has been humiliated, embarrassed, bullied,” and that his family is “ashamed because they share the same name.”
“I am a good man. I am,” Reeder said.
So far, more than 95 Capitol riot defendants have pleaded guilty to federal charges. Thirteen have been sentenced. Reeder is the seventh Capitol riot defendant who has received jail time.