As court proceedings connected with January’s political violence continue to move forward, two participants in the Capitol riot have now been sentenced to 45 days in jail each. Neither of the newly sentenced defendants were accused of perpetrating violent acts while at the Capitol, unlike those who assaulted law enforcement personnel or undertook similar actions. Still, the defendants — Ohio residents Derek Jancart and Erik Rau — entered the Capitol building during the riot and “made it as far as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s conference room before being pushed out by police,” as summarized by CNN.
District Judge James Boasberg, who handed down the sentences for Jancart and Rau, condemned the pair’s behavior. As he put it during the initial sentencing:
‘You attempted with others to undermine one of our bedrock acts, which is the peaceful transition of power after an election… When you try to eliminate that principle, you strike at the heart of our democracy.’
Initially, prosecutors were after sentences of four months for the duo, who are friends. As the judge himself noted, although some of those who were present at the breach of the Capitol may claim that they were merely swept up in the crowd, Jancart and Rau left a nearby hotel where they were staying and headed towards the Capitol after becoming aware of what was unfolding at the premises.
As the judge pointedly phrased it:
‘There are many people who I think would say, ‘We were at the rally; we followed the crowd and just went along.’ But you went back to your hotel and only left your hotel to come back to the Capitol when you heard the Capitol was breached… That’s significant. You weren’t following the crowd. You went back to help.’
Both Jancart and Rau expressed remorse for their actions during the hearing where Boasberg delivered their prison sentences. They are among over 600 Trump supporters who have been criminally charged for their roles in the Capitol riot so far, but only a much smaller number — under a dozen — have already been sentenced, with all of those sentences connected to guilty pleas rather than trials. Accepting a plea deal could provide for a significantly lower prison sentence than what might result from a trial.