Washington – A Pennsylvania woman associated with a far-right movement was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for storming the US Capitol, storming the office of then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi along with other rioters.
Riley John Williams, 23, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was charged, but not convicted, with aiding in the theft of a laptop computer from Pelosi’s office suite during the January 6, 2021 riot.
(Video in the player above from previous coverage)
A federal jury convicted Williams in November of six counts, including a felony civil disorder, after a two-week trial. But she was deadlocked on two other charges, including “aiding and abetting” the laptop theft.
Juries also deadlocked on a charge of obstructing an official proceeding, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress evacuated both chambers of the House and Senate when rioters attacked the Capitol.
See also: A Pennsylvania woman accused of stealing a laptop from Pelosi’s office faces new charges
Prosecutors had asked US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to sentence Williams to seven years and three months in prison.
“Everywhere she went, Williams acted as a speeder, exacerbating the chaos. Wherever others returned, she drove forward,” prosecutors wrote in a court note.
Defense attorneys requested a year and one day in prison for Williams, who would have turned 22 in January 2021.
“In some respects, she differs starkly from the average defendant on January 6 – especially given her youth and that she is female,” they wrote. “In other respects she is akin to many of the other January 6th defendants with no previous criminal record, who were caught with the mob that day, acting on impulse and without thought of the consequences of their actions.”
Jackson also sentenced Williams to three years of supervised release after her incarceration and ordered her to pay $2,000 in restitution, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Williams was a staunch supporter of the white nationalist “Grueber” movement led by internet personality Nick Fuentes, according to prosecutors. They said Williams was “obsessed” with Fuentes and focused on unsubstantiated allegations — which Fuentes put down — that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump.
Williams’ lawyers argued that her political beliefs should not be a factor in her sentencing. They said the First Amendment protects her interest in Fuentes and his “grueber army” of his followers.
See also: 4 alleged fellow Oath Keepers found guilty of conspiracy in the January 6 Capitol attack
Fuentes used his online platform to deliver anti-Semitic and white supremacist rhetoric. In November, former President Trump dined at his Mar-a-Lago club with Fuentes and rapper formerly known as Kanye West, now known as Ye.
Other Fuentes followers have been charged with Jan. 6-related crimes, including former UCLA student Christian Secor, who waved a flag associated with the Fuentes movement as he entered the Capitol. Secor was sentenced last year to three years and six months in prison.
Williams wore a green “I’m with Grouper” T-shirt when she flew to Washington, D.C., with her dad and his friends on Jan. 6. They attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before heading to the Capitol. Williams entered the building through the Senate wing door two minutes after other rioters had breached the entrance.
Prosecutors said Williams used men in helmets and body armor like “rams battering humans,” propelling them forward to cut through police lines inside the Capitol. Entering Pelosi’s main conference room, she stole a gavel and encouraged another troublemaker to grab a laptop from a table, according to prosecutors.
“While the other rioter later fiddled with his laptop and wires,” prosecutors wrote, “Williams filmed and just encouraged the robbery she had just ordered, instructing another rioter, ‘Dude, wear gloves! ‘” “.
Williams then went to the Rotunda, where she shouted insults at the police and urged other rioters to join her in pressuring the officers.
Williams spent about 90 minutes in the Capitol. After she leaves, she climbs onto the roof of a parked police car.
Williams destroyed evidence before her arrest, deleted her social media accounts, reset her iPhone, and used software to wipe her computer, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said in a June 2022 court filing that Williams bragged online that she had stolen Pelosi’s hammer, laptop and hard drives, and that she had “given, or attempted to give, the electronic devices to unidentified Russian individuals”.
“So far, neither the laptop nor the hammer have been recovered,” they added.
An eyewitness described as a former romantic partner of Williams told the FBI that she intended to send the stolen laptop or hard drive to a friend in Russia who was planning to sell it to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. But the witness said Williams kept or destroyed the device when the transfer failed, according to the FBI.
When questioned by the FBI, Williams denied stealing the laptop. She accused her ex-boyfriend of making up the allegation.
Williams was taken into custody after a jury found her guilty on November 21.
Nearly 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. More than 400 people were sentenced, more than half of whom received prison terms ranging from seven days to 10 years.