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U.S. |Ex-Police Officer Gets 7 Years in Prison for Role in Jan. 6 Attack

Ex-Police Officer Gets 7 Years in Prison for Role in Jan. 6 Attack

Prosecutors said that Thomas Robertson, 49, had wielded a large stick and donned a gas mask during the riot, and that he confronted police officers who were trying to stop the increasingly violent crowd.

By Vimal Patel

A federal judge sentenced a former police officer on Thursday to more than seven years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, equaling the longest punishment handed down so far in the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the Capitol riot.

The man, Thomas Robertson of Ferrum, Va., was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, by Judge Christopher Cooper of U.S. District Court in Washington.

A federal jury found Mr. Robertson, 49, guilty in April of five felonies, including obstruction of an official proceeding, civil disorder, and carrying a weapon in a restricted building, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Prosecutors said the Army veteran, who had wielded a large stick and donned a gas mask during the riot, had confronted police officers who were trying to stop the increasingly violent crowd.

“Thomas Robertson, despite swearing an oath of office when he became a police officer, joined the violent mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and did so while armed,” Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. attorney, said in a statement.

The punishment came 10 days after another federal judge sentenced Guy Wesley Reffitt, the first defendant to go on trial in the attack on the Capitol, to seven years and three months in prison. That judge, Dabney L. Friedrich, said the sentence was significantly longer than any handed down so far to the more than 800 people arrested in connection with the riot.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Making a case against Trump. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is laying out a comprehensive narrative  of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Here are the main themes that have emerged so far from eight public hearings:

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

An unsettling narrative. During the first hearing, the committee described in vivid detail what it characterized as an attempted coup orchestrated by the former president  that culminated in the assault on the Capitol. At the heart of the gripping story  were three main players: Mr. Trump, the Proud Boys and a Capitol Police officer.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Creating election lies. In its second hearing,the panel showed how Mr. Trump ignored aides and advisers  as he declared victory prematurely and relentlessly pressed claims of fraud he was told were wrong. “He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Pressuring Pence. Mr. Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence  to go along with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was illegal, according to testimony laid out by the panel during the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump’s actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Fake elector plan. The committee used its fourth hearing to detail how Mr. Trump was personally involved in a scheme to put forward fake electors. The panel also presented fresh details on how the former president leaned on state officials to invalidate his defeat, opening them up to violent threats when they refused.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Strong arming the Justice Dept. During the fifth hearing, the panel explored Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging and relentless scheme to misuse the Justice Department  to keep himself in power. The panel also presented evidence that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive  pardons.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

The surprise hearing. Cassidy Hutchinson, ​​a former White House aide, delivered  explosive testimony  during the panel’s sixth session, saying that the president knew the crowd on Jan. 6 was armed, but wanted to loosen security. She also painted Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, as disengaged and unwilling to act  as rioters approached the Capitol.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

Planning a march. Mr. Trump planned to lead a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 but wanted it to look spontaneous, the committee revealed during its seventh hearing. Representative Liz Cheney also said that Mr. Trump had reached out to a witness in the panel’s investigation, and that the committee had informed the Justice Department of the approach.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

A “complete dereliction” of duty. In the final public hearing of the summer, the panel accused the former president of dereliction of duty for failing to act to stop the Capitol assault. The committee documented how, over 187 minutes, Mr. Trump had ignored pleas to call off the mob  and then refused to say the election was over  even a day after the attack.

Mark Rollins, a lawyer for Mr. Robertson, said on Thursday that he planned to appeal his client’s conviction.

In a handwritten letter to Judge Cooper filed on July 28, Mr. Robertson, a former member of the Rocky Mount Police Department in Virginia, said that he had been “exposed to lots of pro Trump and anti Biden media” shortly before the riot because he had been taking care of an ill friend who was an enthusiastic supporter of the former president.

“I’ve never been a huge Trump supporter, and in fact totally agreed with VP Pence that he had no Constitutional authority to delay the vote tally,” Mr. Robertson wrote. “My arrival at the Capitol after the rally was as much a function of crowd following as anything, and nobody was more surprised than me that I was able to walk unimpeded directly to the Capitol.”

Prosecutors, however, painted a different picture. In court documents, they said that Mr. Robertson believed the presidential election had been fraudulent and became determined to overturn the results. On Jan. 6, they said, Mr. Robertson and another police officer drove to Washington, attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on the National Mall, and then donned gas masks at the Capitol.

Mr. Robertson, who was trained in using a police baton, brandished a large wooden stick in a tactical position and blocked the path of officers who tried to stop the violent advance. Mr. Robertson met up with the other officer, Jacob Fracker, 30, inside the Capitol, and they took a selfie of themselves making an obscene gesture, prosecutors said.

Mr. Fracker, who also was a member of the Rocky Mount Police Department, pleaded guilty in March 2021 to a federal conspiracy charge, prosecutors said, and was a witness for the prosecution at Mr. Robertson’s trial. Mr. Fracker’s sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.

In the days after the attack, Mr. Robertson bragged on social media about his actions, prosecutors said. He said he was proud of a picture he had snapped of himself at the Capitol.

“It shows 2 men willing to actually put skin in the game and stand up for their rights,” Mr. Robertson wrote on Facebook, according to prosecutors. “If you are too much of a coward to risk arrest, being fired, and actual gunfire to secure your rights, you have no words to speak I value.”