Federal prosecutors are recommending an eight-year prison term for an off-duty police officer who was convicted by a jury of storming of the US Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Former Rocky Mount Police Sgt. Thomas Robertson used his law enforcement training to block police officers trying to protect the Capitol from a mob attack on January 6, 2021, prosecutors said in a court held on Thursday in support of their criminal advice.
“Instead of using his training and power to advance the public interest, he sought to overthrow the government,” they wrote.
An eight-year prison sentence would be the longest of hundreds of cases of rioting in the Capitol. The longest to date is seven years and three months before Guy Refitta Texas man who attacked the Capitol while armed with a pistol in a holster.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper will sentence Robertson next Thursday. Prosecutors also asked the judge to sentence Robertson to three years of supervised release from prison.
Robertson’s attorney, Mark Rollins, is… looking for a sentence under a sentence of 27 to 33 months of imprisonment. Prosecutors estimate a range of sentencing guidelines from 87 months to 108 months, but Cooper is not bound by any of those estimates or recommendations.
Robertson did not testify at his trial before a jury in April convicted him on all six charges in his indictment, including charges that he interfered with police officers at the Capitol and entered a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a large wooden stick.
Robertson’s lawyers said the US military veteran used the cane to help him walk because he limped from a gunshot to the right thigh while working as a private contractor for the US Department of Defense in Afghanistan in 2011.
In their sentencing note, prosecutors accused Robertson of lying about his military service. Robertson identified himself on his resume as a graduate of a US Army Ranger school, but his official military records do not support that claim, prosecutors said. They said Robertson also lied to a reporter about receiving a Purple Heart.
Robertson’s jury trial was the second for a Capitol riot. Reffitt’s was the first. Jurors unanimously convicted seven riot defendants on all charges in their respective indictments.
Robertson traveled to Washington, DC on the morning of January 6 with colleague Jacob Fracker and a third man, a neighbor. Fracker was also an off-duty Rocky Mount police officer. He would face trial alongside Robertson before pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge and agreeing to cooperate with authorities.
Fracker testified at Robertson’s trial that he initially believed he was only committing an offense when he entered the Capitol. But he eventually pleaded guilty to conspiring with Robertson to obstruct Congress.
Robertson’s lawyers admitted he broke the law when he entered the Capitol during the riots. They encouraged jurors to convict Robertson of felonies but acquit him of charges.
Jurors saw some of Robertson’s posts on social media before and after the Capitol riots. In a Facebook post on Nov. 7, 2020, Robertson said that “fraud disenfranchised is my hardline.”
“I have spent most of my adult life fighting an insurgency. (I’m about to be a part of it, and a very effective one,” he wrote.
In a letter to the judgeRobertson said he takes full responsibility for his actions on Jan. 6 and “all the bad decisions I’ve made.” He attributes the vicious content of his social media posts to a mix of stress, alcohol abuse and “immersion in the deep ‘rabbit dens’ of election conspiracy theory.”
“I was drinking too much at night and commenting on articles and sites given to me by Facebook algorithms,” he wrote.
The city fired Robertson and Fracker after the riots. Rocky Mount is located about 25 miles south of Roanoke and has a population of about 5,000.
Robertson has been imprisoned since Cooper ruled last year that he had violated the terms of his parole by possessing firearms.
About 850 people have been charged with federal crimes for their behavior on Jan. 6. More than 350 of them have pleaded guilty, mainly to felonies, and more than 220 have been convicted so far.