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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds pushed for little or no prison, but trio of Capitol rioters found still more leniency

Cindy Fitchett, Douglas Sweet and Jordan Stotts all received sentences that are less severe than the already paltry terms recommended by the Justice Department. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — Three more Capitol rioters received probationary sentences on Tuesday, dodging the slightly heftier sentences that prosecutors recommended. 

Two friends from Virginia, Cindy Fitchett and Douglas Sweet, were among the first rioters to be arrested on Jan. 6. They claimed they disobeyed orders from police officers to leave the Capitol Visitor Center because they didn’t hear. 

“We are storming the Capitol! We have broken in! Patriots arise!” Fitchett said in a self-recorded video inside the Capitol. 

Both Fitchett and Sweet cooperated with law enforcement after their arrest, turning over their cellphones and submitting to interviews. As explained in court Tuesday, however, by Justice Department attorney Seth Meinero, Sweet was the only rioter other than Michael Curzio arrested in the Capitol Visitors Center who didn’t express regret during his interview. 

Instead, Fitchett did an interview with a local news station the following day, in which he told a reporter that he traveled to Washington in an attempt to talk to the House and Senate in person. 

“Do you understand that you cannot voice your concerns by barging into the Capitol building?” the reporter asked Sweet. 

“Well what other recourse do we have?” Sweet responded. “They will not listen to us.”

Sweet’s attorney, Cara Halverson, told U.S. District Judge Nichols that, despite his news interview, Sweet — who is a single dad and grandfather, and cuts grass and firewood for a living — had no intention of going into the Capitol. 

“I don’t know if it makes sense to give a more punitive sentence based on an edited video from a news reporter,” Halverson said. 

Because of Sweet’s interview with the local news station, prosecutors recommended three months of home confinement and three years of probation, while asking for only two months of home confinement and three years of probation for Fitchett. Defense attorney Peter Greenspun told Nichols that Fitchett has declined between 25 and 30 requests for media interviews. 

“She told law enforcement multiple times that she made wrong decisions, they were her wrong decisions,” Greenspun said. “She didn't blame anyone else.”

 Nichols gave both rioters one month of home confinement and three years probation. 

“It’s been very difficult, especially living in a small town,” Fitchett told Nichols. “You go somewhere and you give your name and you think, God, do they know me from high school or do they know me from January 6?”

Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced Jordan Stotts, a greenhouse and nursery worker from Minnesota, to two years of probation — though the government had recommended 45 days in prison. 

Stotts drove from Arizona to Washington in his van, which he regularly drives around the country, and stayed the night at a campsite in Virginia. 

Once at the Capitol, he yelled at a group of officers: “We’re here to take back our country for ya’ll! All of us! All Americans! We’re on the same team! Same team!”

Shortly after, he posted on Facebook, “Police were aggressive and on the wrong side! They got us out but it’s far from over! 1776!”

Just days after Jan. 6, Stotts called the FBI and turned himself in.

Stotts, Fitchett and Sweet had all pleaded guilty to unlawful picketing, a charge which holds a maximum of six months in prison. 

On Tuesday, another rioter pleaded guilty to the same charge: Oliver Sarko, from Ohio, entered the Capitol building on Jan. 6 while shouting, “Bring out the traitors,” and “Where is Pelosi?” He will be sentenced on Feb. 11.

Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

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