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Federal prosecutors are recommending an eight-year prison sentence for an off-duty Virginia police officer who was found guilty by a jury of storming the US Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020.
Former Rocky Mount Police Sgt. Thomas Robertson used his law enforcement training to block officers trying to protect the Capitol from a mob attack on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors said in a supporting case filed Thursday. of their sentencing recommendation.
“Instead of using his training and power to promote the public good, he attempted to overthrow the government,” they wrote.
An eight-year prison sentence would be the longest among hundreds of Capitol riot cases. The longest to date is seven years and three months for Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who attacked the Capitol while armed with a holstered handgun.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper is due to sentence Robertson next Thursday. Prosecutors also asked the judge to sentence Robertson to three years of supervised release after any jail time.
Robertson’s lawyer, Mark Rollins, is asking for a sentence lower than a range of 27 to 33 months in prison. Prosecutors estimate sentencing guidelines range from 87 months to 108 months, but Cooper is not bound by any of those estimates or recommendations.
Robertson did not testify at his trial before a jury convicted him in April on all six counts in his indictment, including charges of interfering with police officers at the Capitol and of entering a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a large wooden stick. .
Lawyers for Robertson say the US Army veteran used the stick to help him walk because he limped after being shot in the right thigh while working as a private contractor for the US Department of Defense in Afghanistan in 2011.
In their sentencing note, prosecutors accused Robertson of lying about his military service. Robertson identified himself on his resume as a graduate of the US Army Ranger School, but his official military records do not support that claim, prosecutors said. They said Robertson also lied to a reporter about receiving a Purple Heart.
Robertson’s jury trial was the second for a Capitol riot case. Reffitt was the first. Jurors unanimously convicted seven riot defendants of all charges in their respective indictments.
Robertson traveled to Washington, DC, on the morning of January 6 with his colleague Jacob Fracker and a third man, a neighbor. Fracker was also an off-duty Rocky Mount police officer. He was to stand trial alongside Robertson before pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge and agreeing to cooperate with authorities.
Fracker testified at Robertson’s trial that he initially believed he was only trespassing when he entered the Capitol building. But he eventually pleaded guilty to conspiring with Robertson to obstruct Congress.
Robertson’s lawyers admitted he broke the law when he entered the Capitol during the riot. They encouraged jurors to convict Robertson of misdemeanors but acquit him of the felony charges.
Jurors saw some of Robertson’s social media posts before and after the Capitol riot. In a Facebook post on November 7, 2020, Robertson said “being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line.”
“I spent most of my adult life fighting a counterinsurgency. (I am) about to be part of it, and a very effective one,” he wrote.
In a letter to the judge, Robertson said he takes full responsibility for his actions on Jan. 6 and “every wrong decision I made.” He blamed the vitriol content of his social media posts on a mixture of stress, alcohol abuse and “submersion in deep ‘rabbit holes’ of election conspiracy theory”.
“I sat up at night drinking too much and reacting to articles and sites given to me by Facebook’s algorithms,” he wrote.
The city fired Robertson and Fracker after the riot. Rocky Mount is about 40 kilometers south of Roanoke and has a population of about 5,000.
Robertson has been imprisoned since Cooper ruled last year that he violated the terms of his firearms bail.
About 850 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on January 6. More than 350 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and more than 220 have been convicted to date.
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