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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Prison time ordered for Capitol rioter who posted ‘had fun lol’

While one federal judge gave Russell James Peterson a 30-day sentence, another gave Terry Brown one month of home detention and three years of probation. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — A Pennsylvania man who stormed to the U.S. Capitol with his wife, his mother and a bawdy hoodie was sentenced to 30 days in prison on Wednesday, a sentence more than twice as long as sought by prosecutors

“I’ve found this case to be one of the more difficult ones in my caseload,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Russell James Peterson “You did not end up in the Capitol by mistake. There is no ambiguity as to why you were there.” 

While Peterson’s wife and mother turned and went back to their car on Jan. 6 after they realized that pepper spray had been deployed, Peterson forged ahead and began streaming the insurrection on Facebook, telling viewers, “So we took the Capitol. The Capitol is ours now.” 

The 34-year-old's mother would later post on Facebook that her son had stormed the U.S. Capitol and “sat in Pelosi’s chair,” though Peterson did no such thing. Peterson also lied on social media, claiming that he smoked a joint in the Capitol. 

“Overall, I had fun lol,” Peterson wrote in a comment to one Facebook post — words that Jackson homed in on and tore apart. 

“The ‘lol’ particularly stuck in my craw because, as I hope you’ve come to understand, nothing about Jan. 6 was funny,” Jackson said. “It was sickening, it was horrifying, and it was utterly inconsistent with what this country stands for. And I’m concerned that there’s an ongoing harm to what our democracy is supposed to be.”

Jackson said that she understands that Peterson had a rough upbringing in the foster system and has struggled to overcome addiction — and gave him credit for his sincere remorse and positive remarks toward police officers. But the Obama appointee noted that Peterson’s own remarks about Jan. 6 made it difficult to impose a lesser sentence. 

“No one locked in a room cowering under a table for hours was laughing,” Jackson said. 

Later on Wednesday, Terry Brown, a 70-year-old retired public service officer from Pennsylvania, was sentenced to one month of home detention and 36 months of probation. 

Brown, who was one of the only people arrested inside the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, gave an interview to the Lebanon Daily News the next day in which he said, “I don’t regret doing what I did, because we got a message across and the world knows it.”

During his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, however, Brown told U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols that he regrets entering the Capitol. 

“If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t do it,” Brown said. “I haven’t had a good night's sleep since.”

Nichols, a Trump appointee, noted that Brown was neither violent nor destructive, and has a very low likelihood of reoffending. 

Categories / Criminal, Media, Politics

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