Politics

Florida man gets 5 years for assault in Capitol riot, the longest sentence yet


WASHINGTON — A Florida man was sentenced Friday to just over five years in prison for assaulting police officers during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The sentence, of 63 months, was the longest one yet imposed among the more than 150 defendants who have pleaded guilty to taking part in the siege.

“It has to be made clear that trying to violently overthrow the government, trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, and assaulting law enforcement officers in that effort is going to be met with absolutely certain punishment,” said U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

Robert Palmer, 54, of Tampa, was charged with repeatedly assaulting police officers on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace. Prosecutors said he threw a wooden plank the police, then picked up a fire extinguisher and sprayed its contents at a line of officers, throwing the canister at them after it was empty.

A few minutes later, prosecutors said, he picked up the fire extinguisher and threw it at them a second time and assaulted another group of officers with a metal pole, throwing it like a spear. He stopped the attack when an officer shot him in the abdomen with a rubber bullet.

The officers were able to shield themselves, and none of them were hurt, according to court documents.

“Those officers were so brave standing there, just taking all the stuff that people were giving them, all the taunts, all the jeers and everything,” Palmer told the judge before he was sentenced.

“I am so ashamed I was part of that. Very, very ashamed,” he said.

Palmer was one of the first to turn himself in to the FBI shortly after the riot. He pleaded guilty in October.

His lawyer, Bjorn Brunvand, said Palmer deserved a reduction in sentence because he took responsibility for his actions. But prosecutors said he showed a lack of remorse in a misleading social media posting that solicited support after he pleaded guilty.

The posting said he acted in self-defense — that he threw fire extinguisher only after he was shot with the non-lethal round. Palmer admitted during Friday’s hearing that his claim of self-defense was false.

Chutkan said his conduct showed a lack of remorse. “The posting of the false statement indicated at the time after he pleaded guilty that he was still denying his culpability for the offense.”

Brunvand also said Palmer’s actions on Jan. 6 were “completely out of character” and happened because he was “swept up in the furor of the crowd.”

But prosecutors said his assaults were not spontaneous and came after he watched other rioters attack police for at least an hour.

“Palmer did not stumble into a bad situation,” they said in court filings. “Knowing exactly what has happening to the officers in the Lower West Terrace tunnel, Palmer chose to get closer and physically attack.”

The longest sentence imposed previously in a Capitol riot case was 41 months, given separately to two defendants. One was Jacob Chansley, known as the QAnon shaman, who pleaded guilty to obstructing the presidential vote count. The other was Scott Fairlamb, who pleaded guilty to hitting a police officer’s face shield. Both are pursuing appeals.



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