Two Illinois brothers who were seen smiling inside the U.S. Capitol amid the mob of Donald Trump supporters that breached the building on Jan. 6 have been sentenced to probation and home detention.
Christian Kulas, 25, and Mark Kulas Jr., 28, received identical six-month probation sentences from Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan on Tuesday.
Hogan, a Ronald Reagan appointee, included 60 days of home confinement for both of the brothers, a condition of probation that would allow them to continue to work and attend medical and other essential appointments. Hogan ordered that both Christian and Mark continue treatment for what was described in sentencing briefs as “serious and longstanding” mental and physical health issues. Both brothers’ briefs were heavily redacted and did not name or identify these particular issues.
Prosecutors had requested that the Kulas brothers each serve 14 days in jail followed by 36 months of probation.
Multiple videos show Christian and Mark inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, having entered the building with the tide of rioters that overran police guarding the building as Congress began to certify Joe Biden‘s electoral win. The pro-Trump crowd temporarily put a stop to that process, forcing legislators to either evacuate or shelter in place as angry protestors made their way through different parts of the building.
Christian was also identified as having been in the Capitol by his own mother, who replied with a “yes” and a smiling emoji when someone texted her a screenshot of Christian from one of several videos he posted to Instagram showing his perspective as he approached the Capitol that day after Trump’s so-called “Stop the Steal” rally.
Christian and Mark pleaded guilty in December to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
Although neither of the brothers were accused of committing violence or destruction of property, prosecutor Michael Friedman said that some time of incarceration was necessary because they were a “willful” part of the mob.
“Great evil can be perpetrated in the gathering of large groups of people, especially where members of the group the lack moral clarity or strength to do the right thing in the moment and go against the tide,” Friedman said.
However, Hogan appeared sympathetic to the brothers and praised them for what he said was sincere remorse and apparent acceptance of responsibility. He said that while he would normally be inclined to issue a jail sentence to people who committed similar crimes as Christian and Mark, he wouldn’t do so this time.
“I’m going to do something different in your case, based upon your acceptance of responsibility and your good-faith recognition that what you’ve done is wrong,” Hogan said. He also cited the fact that Christian has a “strong family life” with parents who have been “very supportive your whole life no matter what’s happened in it.”
Hogan expressed similar sentiments at Mark’s sentencing hearing and noted that he didn’t feel jail would be appropriate considering the “debilitating” and serious physical and mental health issues both brothers have faced.
The probation sentences will allow Mark to return working for his family’s cleaning business. Christian, who was living at an ashram in India before returning to the U.S. because of the coronavirus pandemic, will similarly be able to return to what his sentencing brief called his “life’s calling” of “working as a mendicant” where he spends his days teaching yoga, helping an elderly woman on her farm, and participating in meditation, chanting, and chores.
Hogan noted that the Kulas family had faced a considerable amount of criticism as a result of the Kulas brothers’ actions. According to the defendants’ sentencing briefs, one Instagram user accused their grandparents of being Nazi collaborators, when in fact their mother’s family were part of the Polish resistance in World War II, and her aunt was sent to two concentration camps and tortured.
“The social condemnation of your actions has been very strong … against your family,” Hogan said.
During the hearing, Hogan also reiterated his position that he doesn’t believe federal law allows him to issue a “split sentence” of jail and probation in this type of misdemeanor case.
[Images via FBI court filings.]
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