WASHINGTON (CN) — A Texas real estate agent who boasted that white, blond women like herself don't go to jail learned otherwise on Thursday as a federal judge said her sentencing would signal to the country that the court is taking Jan. 6 cases seriously.
Jenna Ryan became a well-known face of the attempted coup that occurred in the walls of the U.S. Capitol, having meticulously posted on social media about her participation before, during and after the riot.
“Life or death, it doesn’t matter, here we go,” the 51-year-old Ryan said in one of her videos. In another, she can be heard chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!”
Beginning at the Dallas airfield where she chartered a private jet, Ryan documented her path to the Capitol building in Washington and later told Fox4 and other news stations that it was one of the best days of her life. The self-described influencer with thousands of followers on social media claimed in another interview that she felt “like a martyr.”
Ryan returned to court Thursday, over two months after pleading guilty to unlawful picketing, where she was treated to a wakeup call from U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper.
“You’re not being singled out for your political views,” the Obama appointee said. “It’s not about the political views you expressed, but it’s how and where you decided to express them.”
While the defense requested a sentence of probation for Ryan, Cooper instead accepted the Justice Department's recommendation that she get 60 days in prison.
“Your case has generated a fair amount of public interest,” Cooper told the defendant, saying she goaded that attention in her case with excessive tweeting. “People will want to know how she was sentenced, and the sentence should tell them we take it seriously.”
Ryan drew particular backlash in March for her reply to a Twitter user who had said her crimes would land her behind bars.
“Definitely not going to jail," Ryan tweeted. "Sorry I have blonde hair white skin a great job a great future and I’m not going to jail. Sorry to rain on your hater parade. I did nothing wrong.”
Ryan told Cooper on Thursday that she should “just stop tweeting.” Cooper agreed: “You get yourself into that briar patch, and you’ve got to live with it.”
Justice Department attorney Karen Rochlin also told the court that it was Ryan's own tweets that showed the extent of her participation in the riot.
“She insists she had no knowledge that there was violence at the Capitol,” Justice Department attorney Karen Rochlin told Cooper. “We cannot fathom how that could be true.”
Ryan was at then-President Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal rally before the riot but had initially gone back to her hotel room. It was only after she watched a televised broadcast of rioters climbing the walls of the Capitol building that she decided to join.
Once there, Ryan tweeted out a photo of broken windows, with a threat: “if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next.” She later posted a tweet about the “cool moment” when the crowd damaged press equipment.
“I don’t think you could have missed the fact that this was no peaceful protest,” Cooper said. “You were a cheerleader. You cheered it on.”
Defense attorney Guy Womack tried to play down Ryan's rhetoric. "She's a social butterfly," Womack said of his client. "She goes online and posts things."
Ryan was the second Capitol rioter to be sentenced Thursday. Earlier in the day, Brittiany Dillion got three years of probation after telling U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich that Jan. 6 was the worst day of her life.
“What I did was inexcusable and unacceptable,” Dillon said. “Life is just so precious. I don’t want to create any misery or unhappiness for anyone ever. ... I never want to step foot in Washington, D.C., again, and I love that city. I don’t want to think of that day again; it was horrible.”
Among the evidence against Dillon was a text message she sent from the Capitol that said: “I fought hard. … I fell in the door and they tried to beat me with batons so I backed off and they pepper sprayed my eyes."
In a third sentencing to cap off the day, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols gave Air Force veteran Jonathan Sanders three years of probation. This is one more year than Nichols gave to a retired Department of Defense employee last month. Nichols attributed the difference to the fact that Sanders initially lied to FBI agents.
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