WASHINGTON (CN) — An Air Force veteran who admitted in court Thursday that he broke his oath and failed his military training when he participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot earned tough words but overall leniency at his federal sentencing.
“My view of military service cuts both ways,” U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols told the 61-year-old Jonathan Sanders, saying that his service was commendable but he should have known better.
Sanders spent 20 years in the Air Force, earning a purple heart along with a large swath of other awards. On Jan. 6, Sanders and two of his friends walked to the U.S. Capitol after attending former President Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal rally. Despite the violence around them — including rioters breaking windows, confrontations with police, and Oath Keepers marching up the stairs into the Capitol in a military formation — Sanders and his friends went inside the building.
“I let my emotions guide my actions,” Sanders told the court Thursday, describing how his military training taught him how to use logic and reason to make decisions. “I had that training. I used it for years. But, on Jan. 6, I failed that training.”
Himself a Trump appointee, Nichols sentenced Sanders to three years of probation on Thursday, noting that the veteran did not tell the truth in his first interview with FBI agents. In addition to originally claiming that he didn’t enter the Capitol — a point he would later correct — Sanders also omitted a few of the scenes described to agents by his co-conspirators.
“He did not tell the FBI he saw rioters propping open the door with a flagpole, or wresting away a riot shield from an officer,” Justice Department attorney Mona Furst said. Prosecutors had asked that Sanders receive two months of home confinement.
"I apologize to my family, my friends, my military brothers and sisters. I was my failure and my failure alone," Sanders said to Nichols. “[They] expected better of me.”
Nichols said that his three-year probationary sentence was based, in part, on the two year probationary sentence that he gave last month to Thomas Gallagher, a retired Department of Defense employee. Nichols said that Sanders’ actions were more severe because of his untruthful interview with law enforcement.
Sanders was the third individual to be sentenced on Thursday: Jenna Ryan, a real estate agent from Texas, received 60 days in jail, while Brittiany Dillion received three years of probation.
Earlier on Thursday, two more Capitol rioters accepted plea deals.
Kenneth Reda, a former high school gym teacher from Orlando, pleaded guilty to unlawful picketing, parading or demonstrating in a Capitol building. Reda was arrested in July and resigned from Brevard County Public Schools shortly after it placed him on leave.
Julie Sizer, a Pittsburgh woman who spent about three minutes in the Capitol building, also pleaded guilty to unlawful picketing.
Both face a maximum of six months in prison.
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