An Ohio couple who assisted rioters in moving a police barricade outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 have been sentenced to less than two years of probation.
Madison Pettit, 20, and Gabriel Burress, 23, headed out from Ohio with two friends on Jan. 5, 2021, with plans to attend Donald Trump‘s so-called “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. the next day. After the rally, Pettit and Burress joined an increasingly agitated crowd near the Capitol plaza.
Rioters at the front of that crowd were able to wrest a metal barricade away from a line of Capitol police. That barricade was passed in the direction of Pettit and Burress, who grabbed the barrier and prevented it from being returned to police. Pettit and Burress were later part of the surge that pushed past police toward the building. They ultimately made their way into the Capitol Rotunda. They stayed inside the building for just under 15 minutes before leaving.
They pleaded guilty in January to one count each of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
The sentence from U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, falls well below the government’s request of 14 days in jail followed by three years of probation and 60 hours of community service. Defense attorneys had asked for sentences of 12 months of probation and an undefined amount of community service.
According to Pettit’s sentencing memorandum, she was a member of the “right-wing faithful” that believed the repeated messaging from conservative leaders that Joe Biden only won the 2020 presidential election because of voter fraud.
“Trump constantly stoked the fires claiming there was an organized effort from his adversaries to ‘steal’ the election. This was nuclearized with the message that the conservative vote as a whole was being neutralized,” the memo said.
However, at the point Pettit entered the building, she started to have “second thoughts.”
“Upon encountering police officers in the building, she made the decision that she wanted no part of this, and made her way, against the force of the crowd coming in, to leave the scene,” her sentencing filing said, adding that her drive home was “surreal” and “somber.”
Burress’ sentencing memo indicates that his regret was somewhat less instant.
“[T]hough many others were violent, pushing officers, etc., Mr. Burress was not violent, carefully observed the situation around him, and acted with decency,” the filing says, adding that he “felt like he was on a tour of the U.S. Capitol” after having unlawfully entered the building amidst the mob that forced Congress to temporarily stop certifying Biden’s presidential win.
Prosecutors acknowledged that while neither Burress nor Pettit engaged in violence or property damage, their presence at the Capitol that day contributed to the danger and chaos that unfolded.
“But for [their] actions alongside so many others, the riot likely would have failed,” the government said in its sentencing memo.
The friends who drove to D.C. with Pettit and Burress, Jodie Wilson and Cole Temple, were also charged and are being prosecuted in a separate case.
Pettit and Burress were also ordered to pay $500 in restitution toward the estimated $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol.
[Images via court filing.]
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