A federal judge who imposed the highest possible fine—but no prison time—as punishment for breaching the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 said that he wanted the sentence to send a message.
“I want the sentence to hurt,” U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said during a sentencing hearing for Lori and Thomas Vinson on Friday. “People have to understand if you’re doing something like this, it’s going to hurt.”
The Vinsons, a married couple from Kentucky, pleaded guilty in July to a misdemeanor charge of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. The charge carries a potential sentence of up to six months in prison, in addition to a fine up to $5,000.
Prosecutor Mary Dohrmann had asked for Lori to be sentenced to 30 days in prison, largely because of her “very public and clearly doubling down” statements she made after losing her job as a nurse when her employer discovered that she was in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I hope that is something I remember and say, ‘I’m glad I was a part of that,’ 30 years from now,” she told local NBC affiliate WFIE shortly after she was fired. “You know people have asked, ‘Are you sorry you’ve done that?’ Absolutely I am not. I am not sorry for that, I would do it again tomorrow.”
“I felt like what I had done was justified, and so I just said I would do this all over again tomorrow, I’m sorry that you don’t see my worth,” Lori said in another TV interview, according to the complaint.
Bristling at these remarks, Dohrmann said: “The events of Jan. 6, it hardly needs to be said, are not something that somebody should be glad to have been a part of, or that they would ever do again.”
“That is the government’s great and sincere concern,” the prosecutor added.
Lori’s lawyer, Chastity Beyl, claimed that her client’s comments were made out of anger over losing her job.
“I think had she not lost her job, she most likely would not have made those types of statements,” Beyl told Walton. “For the past 20 years, she has worked as a nurse. The statements she made was because she was upset over that job loss.”
On social media, Lori confirmed that not only that she was there, but that she was among the first to breach the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
“I was probably one of the first 100 in there and I would say at the most there were several thousand in there,” Lori said on Facebook.
Security footage showed Lori and Thomas, who was wearing a bright orange hoodie, in different parts of the Capitol, over the course of about 40 minutes.
Walton, a George W. Bush appointee who has previously expressed his disdain for those who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6., said that he chose to impose a fine, rather than incarceration, in part because of the financial burden the riots have already placed on taxpayers.
“In addition to the cost of repairing the Capitol, the cost of [prosecuting the Jan. 6 defendants] is not free either,” Walton said. “Taxpayers have to bear the cost of it.”
Walton also sharply criticized the conditions that led to the attack, in which supporters of Donald Trump tried to stop the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“Both of you were gullible enough that based upon statements being made, for which there was proof to support the allegations, you all bought in on it, hook line and sinker,” Walton said. “You took your money to come all the way up to D.C. and let yourselves get involved in a mob situation that should be an embarrassment to anyone in this country.”
“If it’s not you, it’s other people who are buying in on this bogus proposition,” Walton continued. “What happens to America if every time someone loses, they turn around and say, ‘I won’? We’re tearing our country apart!”
“I worry about the future of our country when we have this divide that now exists, that we’re prepared to engage in this type of behavior,” he added. “It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”
Walton has previously expressed concerns about the direction of the country under Trump—and was skeptical of former Attorney General William Barr‘s redactions in the Russia report from former special counsel Robert Mueller.
In addition to the $5,000 fine, the Vinsons will be required to do 120 hours of community service each.
You can read the complaint against the Vinsons, below.
[Images courtesy U.S. Dept. of Justice filing]
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