A Georgia woman who drove to Washington, D.C. with her boyfriend and ended up being among the first to breach the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has been sentenced to jail for her role in the riot.
Savannah McDonald, 21, and her boyfriend Nolan Kidd were among the first to cross the threshold into the Capitol that day. They were pictured standing just feet away from Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon shaman,” and traveled to the third floor after being told to leave the building, according to prosecutors.
Kidd recorded and narrated the couple’s movements the entire time, saying that he and McDonald were “fucking stormtroopers” and bragging that they “went farther than almost anyone into the building.” The origin of the “stormtrooper” comment wasn’t clear, and Kidd later told authorities that he meant it as a joke.
While Kidd was seen as the one who initiated the entire visit to the nation’s capital, McDonald appeared to be similarly defiant in the days after the attack.
Records show that McDonald was convinced of the rightness of her actions on Jan. 7 when she texted a friend using Snapchat.
“My chest hurts,” McDonald wrote. “But we did the right thing. No matter how you look at it.”
“If we get any whiff of them getting on to y’all I can get y’all to Durango [M]exico in 2 days,” the friend said. “I’m serious.”
“Really?” McDonald responded.
McDonald pleaded guilty in January to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol building, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
The government had requested a sentence of 90 days in jail, three years of probation, and 60 hours of community service. McDonald had asked for a sentence of probation only.
Prosecutor Benjamin Kringer said that McDonald’s Snapchat texts and dishonesty with the FBI were aggravating factors.
“She flat-out lied,” Kringer said of McDonald, who told FBI investigators that police officers were at the entrance to the Capitol letting her in. Kringer also said that McDonald told investigators on Jan. 14, 2021, that she had deleted her Snapchat account when she in fact had not.
At her sentencing hearing on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper implied that McDonald could have faced serious charges for not being totally honest with federal investigators.
“You were reasonably forthright, but the comment that the officers ‘waved us in’ clearly wasn’t true,” Cooper said to McDonald. “I understand why you did, [but] you can’t lie to the FBI. That’s another crime. You’re not charged with it obviously but it’s a serious thing to do.”
McDonald had said that being interviewed by the FBI was “very scary” and that she had started to have regrets about her actions on Jan. 6 that very day as she drove with Kidd and some friends back to Georgia.
Cooper did not sentence McDonald to any supervised release.
“I don’t think you are a good candidate for probation,” Cooper said, noting that McDonald doesn’t have a criminal history and appears to have a “relatively stable” family life.
“There’s nothing that continued supervision will accomplish in a case like this,” Cooper continued. “I don’t think you are at risk of doing something stupid like this again. I think you have learned your lesson in that regard.”
The sentence is similar to that of Kidd, who Cooper sentenced Monday to 45 days in jail.
At the end of the hearing, Cooper encouraged McDonald to learn from her experience. He had similar words for Kidd at Monday’s hearing.
“You’re obviously young. We’re all entitled to make mistakes,” Cooper said. “This one’s a doozy, but I’m confident this is one you can overcome.” Cooper said that because the sentence doesn’t include probation, McDonald can “rip off the Band-Aid and get on with your life.”
Cooper said he would allow McDonald to self-surrender and will issue specific instructions at a time to be determined.
[Images via FBI court filing.]
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