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.
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.”
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