Judge sentences Jan. 6 defendant who breached Pelosi’s office to 36 months in prison

A Jan. 6 defendant who surged with the mob into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and helped strategize ways for the mob to overcome police resistance was sentenced Thursday to 36 months in prison, ending one of the earliest and most unusual sagas to stem from the Capitol attack.

Attorneys for Riley Williams — a devotee of white nationalist Nick Fuentes who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and was 22 at the time of the attack — repeatedly urged U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to treat her like an immature child who couldn’t be responsible for her actions. But Jackson sharply rejected that effort, noting that Williams repeatedly and intentionally took steps to breach police lines and marshaled the mob to resist even further.

“She was not just a little waif blowing in the wind,” Jackson said, comparing Williams’ role in the mob to a “coxswain on a crew team.”

Jackson’s sentence was the close of one of the earliest sagas to emerge after the Jan. 6 attack. Williams was one of the first felony defendants charged, and she was suspected at the time of stealing Nancy Pelosi’s laptop, in part because she told friends that she did.

A jury convicted Williams in December of civil disorder and resisting police but deadlocked on a charge that Williams obstructed Congress and abetted the theft of Pelosi’s laptop. Williams is on tape entering Pelosi’s conference room while other rioters took the laptop, and she encouraged them to steal it, but Williams’ lawyers contended that it was unclear if the other rioters heard her comment.

Jackson spent much of her sentencing colloquy dismantling the defense’s claim that Williams was too young or too small to be responsible for the grave offenses the government charged. The defense team leaned on Williams’ youthful demeanor and the fact that she seemed briefly confused about which building was being stormed — calling it the White House as she approached. But Jackson said any momentary confusion Williams expressed was clarified by her repeated acknowledgment of why she was there.

It was not, Jackson emphasized, “because her dizzy little head was confused about which building in Washington was which.”

Fuentes, she noted, was born the same year as Williams. People can sign up for the military at 18, she added, noting that Williams was old enough on Jan. 6 to have completed a tour of duty. John Lewis was 21 when he became a freedom fighter, Jackson added.

“She was old enough to be one of the police officers she resisted,” Jackson said.

Jackson also took on the defense’s repeated assertions about Williams’ diminutive stature, noting that figures like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Liz Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson had all achieved prominence despite their size.

“Riley June Williams was old enough and tall enough to be held accountable for her actions,” Jackson said.

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