Rioter who bragged she wouldn’t go to jail gets prison term
A real estate agent from suburban Dallas who flaunted her participation in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol on social media and later bragged she wasn’t going to jail because she is white, has blond hair and a good job was sentenced on Thursday to two months behind bars.
While some rioters sentenced for the same misdemeanor conviction have received only probation or home confinement, prosecutors sought incarceration for Jennifer Leigh Ryan of Frisco, Texas, saying she has shown a lack of candor and remorse for her actions when the pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol building and delayed Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
They also said Ryan’s belief that she’s shielded from punishment shows she doesn’t grasp the seriousness of her crime.
Ryan wasn’t facing a felony for more serious conduct, but U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper said she was still among the mob who overnumbered police in an attack that led to the deaths of five people and will have a lasting effect on government institutions.
Though Ryan said she was sorry for her actions, Cooper questioned whether she is remorseful and has respect for the law.
“Your actions since Jan. 6 make me doubt some of those things,” the judge said.
Prosecutors said Ryan traveled to Washington on a jet chartered by a Facebook friend, described Trump’s rally before the riot as a prelude to war, livestreamed her entry into the building as alarms sounded, participated in chants of “Fight For Trump,” tweeted a photo of herself next to broken windows outside the Capitol and later said she deserved a medal for what she did.
Her lawyer responded that she was in the building for only two minutes, didn’t act violently and has a First Amendment right to speak up on social media.
The judge then referred to Ryan’s March 26 tweet in which she wrote, “Definitely not going to jail. 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.”
In a letter to the judge, Ryan denied believing she was immune to punishment, saying she was responding to people who made fun of her appearance and called for her to be imprisoned. She said her attorney told her at the time that prosecutors would be recommending a sentence of probation.
“I was attacked and I was answering them,” Ryan said in court.
She is the 10th person charged in the Jan. 6 attack to get a jail or prison sentence. More than 650 people have been charged for their actions at the Capitol.
Prosecutors said Ryan has since downplayed the violence at the Capitol and falsely claimed to probation authorities that she didn’t know there was a riot until she came to the Capitol, even though she had recorded herself in a hotel room watching news coverage of rioters climbing the walls of the Capitol.
After the riot, Ryan said she faced a backlash that included death threats, public heckling and graffiti painted on her real estate signs. She said she had to change her name and disguise herself in public.
Ryan tweeted a photo of herself next to broken windows and holding her fingers in a V sign, with a caption saying, “Window at The capital. And if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next…”
Shortly afterward, Ryan posted another tweet about a crowd damaging equipment belonging to news organizations, including The Associated Press. She tweeted it was a “cool moment” when rioters “went to town on the AP equipment.”
Ryan is expected to start serving her sentence in January.
Also on Thursday, an Air Force veteran was sentenced to three years of probation for breaching the Capitol and taking photos and videos while inside the rotunda for about 10 minutes.
Jonathan Ace Sanders, 61, of Vincennes, Indiana, served 20 years in the military and was awarded a Purple Heart, but said he failed his training on Jan. 6.
“I wasn’t tricked, I wasn’t pushed, that was my failure … I am sincerely sorry,” he said.
Sanders is among dozens of veterans and active-service members charged in connection with the insurrection. As they have in other cases, prosecutors argued that should mean a tougher sentence for Sanders because his training should have told him to leave as other rioters attacked Capitol police officers and vandalized the building.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols declined to impose the two months of home confinement that prosecutors recommended. The judge said Sanders’ military career was commendable service to his country, but also should have kept him away.
“In my view, his service cuts both ways,” Nichols said. “It should have been obvious to him this was a violent riot.”
Earlier on Thursday, a Maryland woman who joined the mob’s attack also was sentenced to three years of probation, including two months of home detention.
Brittiany Angelina Dillon said her actions at the Capitol were “inexcusable and unacceptable.” Judge Dabney Friedrich said text messages show Dillon clearly anticipated violence when she went to Washington on Jan. 6 and seemed intent on doing her part to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
According to prosecutors, Dillon pushed through a crowd of rioters to approach an entrance to the Capitol but was pushed back before she could make it beyond the building’s threshold.
The judge said she was troubled by statements that Dillon made before and after the riot, including her reference to law enforcement officers as “devils.”
“The attack she participated in was an attack on our institutions of government, the rule of law and our democratic process,” Friedrich said. _____ Billeaud reported from Phoenix and Whitehurst from Salt Lake City. Associated Press reporter Michael Kunzelman contributed from College Park, Maryland.
By JACQUES BILLEAUD and LINDSAY WHITEHURST