A Florida man who attacked police at the US Capitol on January 6 with a fire extinguisher, a wooden plank and a pole was sentenced to more than five years in prison on Friday, December 17, 2021, the longest sentence for any of the terrorists involved in the failed coup d’etat but far shorter than the maximum confinement he could have faced.
Robert Scott Palmer is the first person to be sentenced for the felony of assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon, following his guilty plea entered as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
His 63-month sentence could set a benchmark for the more than 140 others who face the same charge, which is significantly more lenient than the 20 years imprisonment that the defendant could have faced.
Palmer was part of the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol in order to disrupt a joint session of the U.S. Congress that was in the process of counting the Electoral College votes and certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
A special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) submitted a detailed statement of facts, with photos, indicating the specific criminal actions taken by Palmer.
“Every day we are hearing about reports of antidemocratic factions, people plotting potential violence in 2024,” District Judge Tanya Chutkan said as she handed down the sentence. “It has to be made clear that trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, assaulting law enforcement, is going to be met with certain punishment. Not staying at home, not watching Netflix, not doing what you were doing before you got arrested.”
According to court documents, Palmer, 54, of Largo, Florida, was among the mob of terrorists rioting outside the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. At approximately 4:53 p.m., he was standing near the Archway leading from the Lower West Terrace to the interior of the Capitol.
While there, he threw a wooden plank at U.S. Capitol Police and Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers protecting the Lower West Terrace entrance.
Then, approximately two minutes later, he was at the front line of rioters confronting the officers located within the Lower West Terrace Archway.
At this time, Palmer sprayed the contents of a fire extinguisher at the officers until it was empty. He then threw the fire extinguisher at the officers.
Although no specific injury was tied to this conduct, based on the size and weight of the plank and fire extinguisher, and the speed and force with which Palmer threw them, the objects were capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.
Four Trump supporters died during the violence, United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died in the line of duty while courageously defending Congress and the Capitol, and five law enforcement officials who committed suicide in the days and months after they responded to the attempted coup d’etat.
Those deaths could have been leveraged to charge every one of the insurrectionists with felony murder but prosecutors have not thrown the book at any of the violent extremists.
On March 14, Julian Elie Khater, 32, a Pennsylvania resident originally from New Jersey, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of West Virginia, were arrested for assaulting Sicknick with a chemical agent or pepper spray.
Palmer was arrested in Florida on March 17. He pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia on Oct. 4, 2021, to assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Chutkan ordered Palmer to pay $2,000 in restitution for part of the nearly $1.5 million worth of damage to the U.S. Capitol building caused by the mob attack.
He also must serve a period of three years of supervised release following the completion of his prison term.
In the 11 months since Jan. 6, more than 700 individuals have been arrested for crimes related to the attempted overthrow of the government, including about 220 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
The investigation remains ongoing, but many of the criminals who tried to keep disgraced former President Donald Trump in power after voters rejected his bid for a second term have faced light penalties and those who plotted the violent overthrow of the American republic appear beyond the reach of federal law enforcement.