In the first reckoning among the hundreds of U.S. Capitol breach cases, 49-year-old grandmother Anna Morgan-Lloyd received a non-jail sentence.
“This court views this as a serious crime,” Ronald Reagan-appointed Senior Judge Royce Lamberth said Wednesday, sentencing the defendant to 36 months probation. Lamberth warned Lloyd that if she violates her probation, she better come to court with her “bags packed.” Lamberth said that if such a violation occurs the question would not be if Lloyd is going to jail, but for how long.
The probation development highlights what legal experts long anticipated about the Jan. 6th riot docket: With nearly half of those accused charged with misdemeanors, most will escape heavy punishment for the minor roles in what has been denounced as a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol and democracy itself.
Agreeing to a deal with one federal charge instead of four, Lloyd pleaded guilty to the minor offense of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.” On the day of the attack, she posted on Facebook that Jan. 6th was the “Best day ever,” and she boasted that she and her friend were among the first to enter.
“We stormed the capital [sic] building and Dona Bissey were in the first 50 people in,” Lloyd wrote, referring to her friend and accused co-defendant. Bissey’s case remains pending.
The resolution of Lloyd’s case without a prison sentence was unsurprising, as both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that incarceration was not appropriate for the non-violent offense of the grandmother. Prosecutors noted, however, that she did play a role in the broader melee.
“The Government recognizes that although the facts and the circumstances surrounding the actions of each rioter who breached the Capitol and its grounds differs, each rioter’s actions were illegal, and each rioter contributed – directly or indirectly – to the violence and destruction that day,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein noted in an 11-page sentencing memo. Rothstein said Wednesday that Jan. 6 is a day that will forever live in infamy—the day the “temple of democracy” was overrun.
More than 130 people have been charged with assaulting or resisting police on the day of the siege; five people died on that day or shortly thereafter, including Officer Brian Sicknick (an autopsy said Sicknick died the next of natural causes after suffering two strokes).
Rothstein said what Lloyd called the “most exciting of [her] life” was actually a “tragic day” for the country.
He said that “despite the defendant’s initial ill-considered” commentary on social media about Jan. 6 and calling rioters “patriots,” probation in this case is warranted. The government said there was no evidence Lloyd committed any violence, destruction, or theft. It appeared the defendant remained in a “limited part of the Capitol building for a limited period of time,” the prosecution said.
Before sentencing, Lloyd’s lawyer H. Heather Shaner suggested that her client watch “Schindler’s List,” and read “Just Mercy” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” as her attorney put it, to “educate herself about ‘government policy’ toward Native Americans, African Americans and European Jews.” Scores of participants in the siege of the U.S. Capitol belonged to extremist, militia or white supremacist groups. Multiple people waved Confederate flags, and one wore a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie, mocking the Holocaust.
In a movie review of “Schindler’s List” she filed with the court, Lloyd disclosed that she has a Holocaust denier in her family—and she did not exactly correct him on the facts.
“One of my Sons-in-Law is 1⁄2 German,” Lloyd wrote. “His mother was born in Germany and has never became an American Citizen. My Son-In-Law doesn’t believe the Holocaust happened as it did. He says ‘Only’ a million Jews died. One person being killed because of their faith is too many!”
Lloyd ultimately found the Steven Spielberg classic “very moving.”
“Hard to watch and hard to not watch,” Lloyd said. “It’s hard to believe there are people who say this never happened.”
Also viewing “Mudbound,” “Slavery by Another Name,” and “Burning Tulsa” on the History Channel, Lloyd wrote that she had this takeaway from her book and film list about the sufferings of marginalized groups: “I’ve learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve. People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street.”
Shaner said on Wednesday that her client showed a willingness to learn and educate herself in the months following her arrest. Lloyd’s lawyer said that also she sent her client a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
Lloyd appeared in court by video and was sworn in. The judge asked the defendant a series of questions to make sure that she understood that with her guilty plea she was waiving her right to a jury trial.
“Yes, your honor,” Lloyd said, when asked if she intended to plead guilty.
She said she understood the terms of the plea agreement and entered into it willingly.
Near the end of the hearing, Lloyd apologized.
“I would just like to apologize to the court, the American people and my family,” she said. “I am ashamed that it became a savage display of violence that day.”
“It was never my intent to be a part of something so disgraceful to our American people,” she added.
Lamberth said that Lloyd was getting a “break” with probation. After expressing his views on the role of a judge, Lamberth said he did not want to sentence Lloyd to a punishment greater than what was sought by the U.S. Attorney.
He said, however, that “[i] t was not an accident that it turned violent” on Jan. 6.
“It was intended to and brought a halt to our government,” he said, noting that “much of the public, I think, today remains outraged” about what took place.
Without saying his name, Judge Lamberth also slammed GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) for defending Jan. 6 criminals as mere tourists strolling through the Capitol.
“I don’t know what planet they were on,” Lamberth said of Jan. 6 apologists in Congress, “but there were millions of people who saw what happened on Jan. 6.” The judge called Jan. 6, “A disgrace to our country.”
Lamberth also expressed some concerns about allegations that Jan. 6 defendants have not being treated the same way as those who rioted, looted and committed arson across the country last summer. He said he expected Attorney General Merrick Garland would ensure fairness at the federal level.
[Images from the FBI’s affidavit]
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