Robert Palmer, 54, a man who was part of some of the most intense fighting at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, has been sentenced to 63 months for his part in the riot. This decision, handed down Friday Dec. 17, is the longest sentence so far for any of the rioters.

A little before 5 p.m. that day, there was hand-to-hand combat between the rioters and the police at the lower west terrace of the building. Robert Palmer was in the middle of it. 

It was then that Robert Palmer, from Florida, wearing a jacket with an American flag design, who threw a wooden plank at the police. He also sprayed a fire extinguisher at them. When the fire extinguisher was empty, he threw that. He then seems to have looked around for other objects. Police pepper-sprayed the crowd, and Robert Palmer attacked with a pole.

Earlier that day, Robert Palmer had been just one of the many people who were milling around the Ellipse, a park just south of the White House, as President Donald Trump spoke.

But he made his way to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, with so many others, after the President had told them that if they didn’t fight “you’re not going to have a country anymore.” 

Others Involved in the Capitol Right

By coincidence, Gracyn Courtright, a 23-year-old woman from West Virginia, was also sentenced Friday, by a different federal judge. The two cases illustrate the range of outcomes, and the range of factors that enter into these sentences.

Courtright, who was at the U.S. Capitol during or just after the Jan. 6 riot, posted photos of herself on social media showing herself there. She received a one-month sentence, plus one year of supervised release and 60 hours of community service.

Courtright had pleaded guilty this summer to a misdemeanor count of knowingly entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. The prosecution had recommended a sentence of six months in prison, but the sentencing judge deemed that too high.

Robert Palmer, who pleaded guilty in October to one count of assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers using a dangerous weapon during the Capitol riot, which is of course a far more serious matter than trespassing. In addition to the 63 months in prison, he has been ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution. When the prison sentence is up, Palmer will faces 36 months of supervised release.

In his appearance Friday, Robert Palmer told the sentencing judge, between sobs, that he is “really, really ashamed of what I did.”

Robert Palmer Pleaded for Leniency

Robert Palmer had pleaded for leniency in a handwritten letter to the judge, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkin. He had said in that letter that he was “lied to by those at the time who had great power” who “kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny.”

It wasn’t fair, he said, that the ringleaders go unindicted while the foot soldiers they led so badly into a Capitol riot received lengthy sentences. That appeal did not prevail with Judge Chutkin.

She acknowledged, “It is true that the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action have not been charged.” That, though, she added, “is not the court’s decision. I have my opinions but they are not relevant.”

She said that the consequences for violent criminal actions have to be clear. In particular, “trying to stop the peaceful transition of power and assaulting law enforcement officers is going to be met with certain punishment.”

She said that she was not “making an example” of Robert Palmer in connection with the Capitol riot. She was simply “sentencing you for the conduct you did.”