WASHINGTON (CN) — A Georgia man who drove to Washington with a slew of weapons that he threatened to use against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was sentenced Tuesday to 28 months in prison.
“Thinking about heading over to Pelosi CUNT’s speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV,” Cleveland Meredith texted his friends. “I’m going to collect a shit ton of traitor’s heads.”
Meredith, a 53-year-old man with a history of mental illness, drove in to the nation's capital on Jan. 7 — a day after a mob of right-wing extremists stormed the seat of America's government in a bid to prevent the ceremony that certified the results of the 2020 election, casting President Donald Trump out of office and sending in Democrat Joe Biden.
As he was coming from a ski trip with his son in Colorado, Meredith didn’t make it to Washington in time for the Capitol riot came armed with two firearms, several high-capacity magazines and over 2,500 rounds of ammunition. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson scoffed Tuesday at the explanation of the weapons offered by defense attorney Paul Yoshio Kiyonaga.
“That was in case they just didn’t get good snow on the ski trip?” Jackson asked. “Please.”
Jackson also noted that she was not moved by Kiyonaga’s argument that Meredith was only joking when he threatened to kill Pelosi and Bowser, as indicated by the “lol, just havin fun,” at the end of his texts.
“It wasn’t funny,” Jackson said. “These sorts of statements cannot be shrugged off, normalized or erased by adding ‘lol’ at the end.”
When a friend texted that Trump wanted the rioters to go home peacefully, Meredith responded, “Bullshit, he wants HEADS and I’m gonna deliver.”
But, Kiyonaga argued that it was his client's message that was the true bunkum.
“He’s a lot of talk,” Kiyonaga said, noting that there was no evidence that Meredith planned to carry out his threats. “He’s big on words, where are the actions? There are none. ... He’s trying to sound tough.”
Kiyonaga noted that his client mentally spiraled when his sister died 30 years ago, proceeding to pinball between jobs and abuse alcohol. Throughout Meredith's existential struggles, though, Kiyonaga said the defendant has relied on the support of his family and been an excellent father to his two sons.
“He sits alone in his cell facing the stark reality that he missed his son’s senior year of school,” Kiyonaga said. “He knows the consequences of ever doing anything like this again.”
Meredith was turned into the FBI by his parents. They appeared before Jackson on Tuesday, along with two lifelong friends of Meredith, to testify on his behalf.
“We called the FBI because we thought we were saving our son’s life,” Meredith’s mother told Jackson. “We feel like our son has sat at the table of consequences for 11 months and beg the court to give him an opportunity to seek mental health treatment.”
Though Jackson sympathized with the couple, she told them they tend to dwell on the “good old days” and spoke of their son as a young man, good boy and high school athlete. “But I’m presented today with a man in his 50s.”
Jackson noted that Meredith needed an “intensive, multilayered treatment plan” — something that Meredith has avoided in the past.
“I apologize to Speaker Pelosi if I scared her at all. I apologize to my family and to my sons,” Meredith said in court. "I taught them to be good men, and I’m very embarrassed by this whole situation because it’s not who I am or who I want to be remembered as.”
Having already been jailed 11 months awaiting sentencing, Meredith will serve 17 more months in prison.
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