U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Anna Morgan-Lloyd to probation for her role in the Jan. 6 attempted coup d’état, making her the first criminal defendant to receive punishment for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Lawyers for the accused are celebrating as the Indiana woman avoided time behind bars, but her sentencing shows cases against those charged in the deadly siege are slowly advancing, even as the U.S. Department of Justice and the courthouse in Washington, D.C., struggle under the weight of roughly 500 federal arrests across the U.S.
“I have really struggled with what would be an appropriate sentence,” Lamberth said. The judge of 33 years said he feels “troubled” by the accounts of some Republicans in Congress.
Lamberth said the insurrection was a “disgrace” and the judge forcefully rebuked the “utter nonsense” coming from some Republican lawmakers and other right-wing figures who are whitewashing what happened.
Republicans in Washington are trying to downplay the violence committed by members of the mob that sought to disrupt the constitutional process in the hope of keeping former President Donald Trump in power despite his overwhelming defeat in the election.
“I don’t know what planet they were on,” Lamberth said of the GOP lawmakers, although he did not mention any names. Recent releases of videos from the attack “will show the attempt of some congressman to rewrite history that these were tourists walking through the capitol is utter nonsense.”
“This wasn’t a peaceful demonstration. It was not an accident that it turned violent,” he said. “I also think, some of these defendants in these cases are not gonna do what you did. Some of them are not gonna say they did anything wrong.”
Lamberth, appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, served as presiding judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from 1995 to 2002 and on July 15, 2013, he assumed senior status on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where he formerly served as chief judge.
Morgan-Lloyd pleaded guilty in federal court to one charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building in exchange for three years of probation, $500 in restitution and 40 hours of community service, court records show.
The court prohibited Morgan-Lloyd from buying a firearm under the terms of her probation.
In a tearful apology in court, Morgan-Lloyd said she intended to peacefully support Trump that day.
“I’m ashamed that it became a savage display of violence that day,” she said. “I would’ve never been there if I had a clue it was going to turn out that way, because it was never my intent to be apart of anything that is so disgraceful to the American people.”
Morgan-Lloyd was arrested after she was recognized while trying to obtain a firearms permit and was accused of entering the Capitol, calling it the “best day ever” on Facebook.
Federal prosecutors in the case supported the deal that avoided time in prison, records show, citing Morgan-Lloyd’s lack of criminal history and remorse for her actions.
“To be clear, what the Defendant initially described as the “most exciting day of (her) life” was, in fact, a tragic day for our nation — a day of riotous violence, collective destruction, and criminal conduct by a frenzied and lawless mob,” said U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips.
In her plea, Morgan-Lloyd wrote she’s “ashamed” of her participation in the rally-turned-riot, adding that she’s learned from her actions using movies and books recommended by her attorney — attaching plot summaries of “Schindler’s List” and “Just Mercy” as evidence.
“I’ve learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve,” Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street.”
Her lawyer, H. Heather Shaner, in court called Morgan-Lloyd the “least culpable” among the thousands of rioters.
“She was very willing to learn about American history,” Shaner said. “When I offered her a book list, and the movie list, she got a library card because she lives in a remote part of Indiana.”