A Pennsylvania woman convicted of breaching a “sensitive space” of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 told a sentencing judge on Wednesday that people close to former President Donald Trump “promised” her a White House job. Instead, she received a jail sentence that she fears could lose her custody of her kid.
Annie Howell, 31, recorded at least five videos that day, including one of her in a ransacked conference room in what prosecutors described as a “sensitive space” inside the Capitol building. According to prosecutors, she can be heard leading a chant of “Whose house? Our house!” She also recorded multiple videos of law enforcement being attacked by the violent mob of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the building in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
At her sentencing hearing Wednesday, Howell said that she had been told by GOP officials that she would be rewarded for her dedication to keeping Trump in office.
“I feel betrayed by the former president,” she said during the hearing. “I was promised things by people that were close to him, such as a job in the White House.”
“I Helped Set Up Security for Trump”
Howell elaborated on her connections to the GOP in Pennsylvania in a letter she filed with the court ahead of the sentencing hearing. She said that as a result of her work as a volunteer, she was invited to an “exclusive, invitation only, dinner with Eric Trump” and became more “politically connected” after that.
“I was surrounded by Congressman, Senators, even Trump advisers. I helped set up security for Trump and his family with the secret service,” Howell claimed in her letter.
“By this point in time I had a large social media following and was enthusiastic about the 2020 election and Donald Trump, my candidate,” she continued. “I was promised future benefits, including a possible White House job for my hard work, my loyalty and my dedication to Trump and his family. Immediately following the election, I was asked directly by a Trump adviser and supposed close friend to help collect affidavits from PA. residents in eight  Pennsylvania counties.”
Notably, Howell has met with investigators for the House committee investigating Jan. 6. According to her attorney, Howell has provided information that has been “investigated, verified and found to be valuable.”
That didn’t matter to prosecutors, however.
“It doesn’t change the fact we still believe she is still deserving of incarceration in this matter,” prosecutor Benjamin Kringer said at the hearing Wednesday. In one video, according to prosecutors, Howell kept recording as rioters dragged three police officers down the stairs and brutally assaulted them. Howell can allegedly be heard yelling “fuck you” at the officers during this attack.
“It is difficult to understand how somebody can watch officers being hit with sticks, being kicked, being attacked with their own stolen riot shields, and cheer for those attacks to continue,” Kinger said at the hearing.
“Some rioters were force multipliers,” the prosecutor added.
“I Do Think You Have to Serve Some Time”
Although Howell didn’t physically assault officers or destroy property, Kringer said her participation in Jan. 6 “went beyond her presence at the riot,” including posting videos to Facebook that Kringer said “spread propaganda” and blamed the violence on law enforcement and anti-Trump activists. FBI Director Christopher Wray has said there is no evidence that anti-fascist activists—often referred to as “antifa”—participated in violence at the Capitol that day.
On Wednesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan sentenced Howell to 60 days in jail.
The jail time was ordered as a condition of a three-year probation sentence. Hogan, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said that he wanted to avoid putting Howell in a position where she could lose custody of her eight-year-old son, whose father has sought full custody since Howell’s arrest.
“I do think you have to serve some time of incarceration for your activity,” Hogan said. “I cannot see just giving you probation.”
Hogan said that Howell must serve her sentence in 10-day increments at a local jail.
Howell’s attorney H. Heather Shaner asked Hogan to reconsider, saying that the sentence could cause Howell to lose custody of her son. But Hogan didn’t budge.
“I’ve recommended that that not happen,” Hogan said. “I don’t know why 10 days at various times of the month, why she can’t do it. I don’t see how the sentence makes any difference, whether it’s all probation or probation with intermittent confinement.”
Shaner asked that the intermittent sentence be served on weekends instead of the longer 10-day sessions.
“I’m going to leave it as it is,” Hogan said. “I think it’s the only appropriate thing based on the the conduct and actions at the Jan. 6 riot. I considered giving her straight time for more than 60 days, frankly, and if it had been a different situation, I would have given her more time in jail.”
Hogan also ordered Howell to complete 60 hours of community service.
“Trying to Downplay the Riot”
Before issuing his sentence, Hogan gave Howell the chance to speak on her own behalf. She told him that she was “embarrassed and ashamed” and that she is not the same person who cheered in support of rioters who were repeatedly assaulting law enforcement.
“I can’t express more how different I am today,” she told Hogan, citing the fact that she has watched movies like “Schindler’s List” and read books about “oppression and bigotry and racism”—a pre-sentencing tactic that Shaner has apparently employed with other Jan. 6 defendants.
Howell also said that her participation in the riot was motivated by her support for Trump.
Howell had pleaded guilty in December to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to one year in jail. Prosecutors requested a sentence of 60 days’ incarceration; Howell had asked for a period of probation only.
During the hearing, Hogan took time to address what he calls the “whitewashing” of the Capitol attack, joining some of his colleagues on the bench who have similarly condemned lawmakers and other political figures who have sought to soft-pedal the events of the day.
“I am concerned because what we have going on in this country is certain legislators in our Congress and Senate [are] trying to downplay the riot, tending to whitewash it, attempting to provide a different narrative,” Hogan said.
“There are people of substance trying to mislead the United States and its citizens as to what really happened at the riot,” Hogan said. “I think that’s something we have to be very careful about. Jan. 6 was an insurrection.” Hogan said it was “probably the worst thing that’s happened” to attack democracy in the U.S. since the War of 1812 when British troops set fire to the White House.
Hogan added that it’s frightening that so many Americans “bought in so much to this belief that caused the riot, that they could continue to believe [up to] the next election, if the person they want is not elected, [they could] go back to rioting again and attacking our institutions. We need to be concerned about that in particular with those individuals who are trying to downplay the riot and what really happened.”
[Images via FBI court filings.]
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