A trio of Missourians who joined the mob of Donald Trump supporters inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and stole a shard of the nameplate of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have been sentenced to time behind bars.
Emily Hernandez, 22, became one of the most well-known faces of the Capitol attack after pictures and videos of her went viral, including one in which she is seen standing just a few feet from Robert Keith Packer—memorably wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt—and grinning widely while appearing to hold the purloined piece of Pelosi’s nameplate.
Also pictured with Hernandez are her uncle, William Merry, 63, and his friend Paul Westover, 53.
Merry pleaded guilty in January to one count of theft of government property, and Westover had pleaded guilty in November to one count of parading, picketing, or demonstrating in a Capitol building. Hernandez pleaded guilty in January to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building—all misdemeanors. Westover faced up to six months behind bars, while Merry and Hernandez each faced up to one year in jail.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg sentenced all three defendants to jail: Hernandez to 30 days, and Merry and Westover each to 45 days for their role in the mob that overwhelmed police and swarmed the Capitol, temporarily blocking Congress from certifying the result of Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.
Prosecutors had requested 45 days behind bars for Hernandez, 120 days for Merry, and 90 days for Westover.
Judge: January 6 Was “Nothing Short of Insurrection.”
During the hearing, federal prosecutor Jessica Arco played snippets of video that placed Westover, Merry, and Hernandez among the crowd at the Peace Circle, including a group of so-called “Proud Boys” that wrested a barricade away from police, forcing them to retreat.
Speaking on his own behalf, Westover told Boasberg that he regretted his actions. He complained that he and his family had been the targets of hate mail and death threats, and that he had been unfairly described as a “domestic terrorist” and “insurrectionist.”
“I am not what the media would portray me as,” Westover said.
Boasberg did not appear to be moved by Westover’s words.
“What you and others did on Jan. 6 was nothing short of insurrection and an attempt to topple a government that had been lawfully and legally elected and maintain in power those who had lost the election,” Boasberg said.
The judge told Westover what while he appreciated his descriptions of the personal challenges and financial losses he has faced since his arrest, he didn’t hear any meaningful explanation as to why Westover was at the Capitol at all.
“I didn’t hear much about why you were there in the first place,” Boasberg said, adding that he still didn’t know why Westover made the “intentional choice” of being at the “forefront of that mob.”
Boasberg, a Barack Obama appointee, said that some Trump supporters who entered the Capitol hours after the initial breach might arguably be considered “curiosity seekers,” but Westover wasn’t one of those people.
“That’s not you,” Boasberg said. “You were there early on. You were there in the middle of the group that was eager to overcome—and did overcome—the barricades and Capitol police[.]”
“You’ve Got to Make Better Judgments.”
Hernandez’s attorney, Michelle Peterson, argued that Hernandez was the least culpable of the three because of her age: she was 21 years old when Merry took her to Washington for what she believed was a “sightseeing” trip.
“You weren’t 12, you weren’t 13 when this happened,” Boasberg said. “You were 21. You were an adult, you were old enough to vote, old enough to fight for our country, and you went into the Capitol and you were part of the insurrection that day, and you were happy to steal items from the Capitol as you left.”
“I understand how people got infected with the mob spirit, but again without the mob, none of this is possible,” Boasberg continued. “Without the mob, nothing happened. People don’t die that day. People aren’t traumatized and have their lives turned around, people like police officers, people whose job it is to guard the Capitol and protect those who we voted for.”
People died because “people like you didn’t think twice about what you were doing,” Boasberg added.
Boasberg agreed to let all three defendants surrender themselves to federal authorities. Westover and Merry must report some time after May 11, and Boasberg granted a request from Peterson that Hernandez report for her sentence after June 15.
That extra time, Peterson said, may give Hernandez a chance to resolve the significantly more serious charges she is facing in connection with a fatal car accident in which she is suspected to have been driving drunk.
A Missouri State Highway Patrol summary of the crash said that Hernandez was driving the wrong way on Interstate 44 when she crashed into a car driven by Ryan Wilson, 36. Wilson’s wife, Victoria Wilson, 32, was killed.
According to a GoFundMe page, Ryan needed surgery for injuries sustained during the collision.
Court records show that she is charged with driving while intoxicated resulting in the death of a non-passenger, and driving while intoxicated resulting in serious physical injury.
The collision happened on Jan. 5, 2022, the day Hernandez’s uncle pleaded guilty and nearly one year to the day after she joined the mob at the Capitol.
Her next hearing in that case is scheduled for April 28.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen with your auto case, and I certainly don’t wish you ill there,” Boasberg told Hernandez after issuing his sentence. “But you’ve got to make better judgments about the kind of person that I read about in those [character] letters, not the kind of person I read about in these charges.”
[Image via FBI court filing.]
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