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Pair of Pennsylvanians sentenced to month in prison for storming Capitol

Two men in their 20s were each given 30-day prison terms after video footage showed them taking documents from the U.S. Capitol during last year’s insurrection.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Two natives of the Quaker State were sentenced to 30 days in prison Wednesday for storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, while a third Pennsylvanian pleaded guilty to entering a restricted building.

According to prosecutors, Nicholas J. Perretta and Mitchell Paul Vukich both went to the Capitol from Pittsburgh a year ago to "see what would happen" at a rally held by then-President Donald Trump to push unfounded claims challenging then-President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 win.

Evidence shows the duo wasn’t involved in the violence other Jan. 6 defendants are accused of, but images of them wandering the building and pocketing random documents strewn about the floor led to August guilty pleas. The pleas were enough for U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to sentence them to a month behind bars and a $500 fine for misdemeanor charges of unlawfully parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol.

“They stole paper; Maybe they were valuable, maybe they weren’t,” the Barack Obama appointee said in Wednesday’s telephonic hearing, noting video showed both defendants picking up documents but only Vukich pocketing them before throwing them in the trash shortly after leaving the building. “They took them with the same level of entitlement as they had when they walked into the Capitol.” 

Perretta, 27, and Vukich, 26, both read prepared statements offering apologies for their actions. Vukich described his intentions that day as wanting to “get out of my house during the lockdown.” 

“It turned out to worsen the situation and I’m very sorry for that,” he said. 

Perretta’s Washington-based attorney Carmen D. Hernandez also tried to push some of the blame on politicians, including Trump, amplifying election misinformation. 

“The former president of the United States, the former mayor of New York City, former Department of Justice officials, esteemed members of Congress, for two months pushed this theory that the election was stolen,” she said. “My client is facing jail time for people who should have faced a greater responsibility.”

But Chutkan expressed doubt at the theory the two were innocent bystanders caught up in the moment. She pointed to evidence showing they brought goggles designed to block tear gas from getting into their eyes. 

“It’s what you wear when you expect resistance from law enforcement,” the judge remarked. “They came prepared for confrontation.” 

Both were ordered to voluntarily self-report to jail at a date agreed to with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 

Kelly O'Brien of Allentown was the third Pennsylvania native with a hearing Tuesday. A can of bear mace exploded in her home and all over a camera-friendly white coat she wore during the riot, helping lead to her indictment.

O’Brien, 49, pleaded guilty without comment to entering and remaining in a restricted building. She’ll face anywhere from zero to six months in jail at a sentencing hearing scheduled for April.

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