Rocky Mount officer Thomas Robertson sentenced to more than 7 years in January 6 riot

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A Virginia police officer who prosecutors say lied about his actions before, during and after the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, including his military service and marriage, was sentenced Thursday to 87 months in prison .

Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker were members of the police department in the small town of Rocky Mount, West Virginia, when they joined the crowd that stormed the Capitol. Both have since been fired.

“You weren’t a bystander who just got carried away by the mob,” Judge Christopher R. Cooper said during Robertson’s sentencing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington. “It really seems like you see partisan politics as war and you still believe in those conspiracy theories.”

Robertson, 49, was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of six crimes, including using a large wooden stick to block police outside the Capitol and destroying his phone upon returning. at home. Fracker, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, testified at trial.

Cooper said Robertson’s case was similar to that of Guy Reffitt, a member of the far-right anti-government Three Percenters militia, who confronted an officer outside the Capitol with a gun. Reffitt was sentenced to 87 months in prison by another judge.

During his sentencing, Robertson described his actions on January 6 as an aberration in the life of a respected member of a law-abiding and respectable community. Government documents suggest he became radicalized under the influence of those around him, including the head of a small nearby police department and a retired FBI agent.

Prosecutors took the unusual step of releasing two detailed FBI investigations into Robertson’s claims in his plea for clemency.

Retired Police Chief Dennis Deacon wrote in court saying he helped train Robertson as a police officer and that these crimes were “completely irrelevant”.

The agent produced a text conversation from March 2021, in which Robertson told Deacon, “I can kill any agent they send for at least two weeks” and that he was “ready to die in battle.” Deacon replied that Robertson should “be smart, pick battles, plan logistics, recruit very carefully and hope it doesn’t come down to that…we need somewhere to go…remote, defensible, on the water, on very rough terrain”.

Cooper said he found it particularly “disturbing” that Robertson made the comments after law enforcement officers were seriously injured on Capitol Hill.

In an interview, Deacon said he told Robertson to recruit “friends” for “all the inevitable things that might happen…a flood or a hurricane,” or in the “extremely unlikely” event that “the government would be overthrown by others from the outside”.

Deacon retired last year as police chief in Boones Mill, Va., near Rocky Mount. (When he was promoted in 2013, he said he was also the only officer in the force; there have been as many as seven.)

Another man described as a retired FBI agent drove to the Capitol with Robertson and Fracker but did not go inside, court records show. The man, who could not be reached for comment, called Capitol Police “cowards” who “will be kneeling before us” in text messages to Robertson, records show.

Fracker is expected to be sentenced on Tuesday.

In his letter to the court, Fracker said he had been called a “rat”, a “snitch” and a “stab in the back” by members of the community for testifying against Robertson. “It’s really just heartbreaking,” he said.

Robertson was a mentor to him and a “once-appreciated father figure,” Fracker wrote.

A video from the January 6 hearing on June 9 used multiple sources, including security and body camera footage, to guide viewers through the attack on the Capitol. (Video: The Washington Post)

At least two dozen people with past or current ties to law enforcement are charged with criminal involvement in the Jan. 6 attack. Michael German, a former FBI agent who studied far-right police radicalization at NYU Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, said the bureau “continues to deny” the problem.

“Law enforcement has a lot of power to harm people,” he said. “Why don’t we see an aggressive project designed to protect the public?”

In an FBI statement, a spokeswoman said, “We cannot and do not investigate ideology. The FBI investigates when someone crosses the line between expressing their beliefs and violating federal law.

Robertson’s letter to the court explained his angry social media posts before the riot as a product of alcohol abuse and isolation while his wife worked in New York.

“I was…all alone at home,” he wrote. “I sat up at night drinking too much and reacting to articles and sites given to me by Facebook’s algorithms.”

However, an FBI agent wrote that Robertson’s wife had traveled to New York after January 6, not before, and that Robertson appeared to be having an extramarital affair while she was away. Additionally, the agent said that if Robertson was drunk when he wrote the messages on Facebook that he would meet Joe Biden’s victory with violence, he was either drinking during a police shift or just before one.

At sentencing, Robertson blamed Fracker for destroying their phones after the riot, which prosecutors noted is contradicted by both trial testimony and textual evidence.

“The truth makes no sense to this defendant,” Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said in court. “He will say whatever he thinks he needs to say to get out of a situation.”

Robertson also misled the court, Rocky Mount police, reporters and friends about his military accomplishments, according to the FBI. He has indicated in various interviews and conversations that he trained as an Army sniper, Ranger and paratrooper in the 1990s; served as an infantryman, sniper, and sergeant when re-enlisting in the 2000s; and was awarded a Bronze Star and awarded a Purple Heart after injury.

The FBI agent said Robertson was sent back to basic training for three weeks in 1991 for “lack of motivation”; he re-enlisted in 2006 but only served as a military police officer and had no apparent training in any other specialty. He spent about eight months in Iraq with the Virginia National Guard, then traveled to Afghanistan as a contractor in 2011. He was injured there, but contractors are not eligible for the Purple Heart. The agent also said Robertson overstated his recovery time.

The agent suggested Robertson may have committed a crime with the lies, under a law that prohibits using “stolen value” for material gain.

Defense attorney Mark Rollins said that while Robertson “may have bragged about his background” and “made some obvious mistakes”, he served his country and his community in a way that can be falsified. “He always served his fellow man,” Rollins said. “He bled for this country.”

Robertson was released after his arrest in January 2021, but was jailed months later after going on what Cooper described as a “remarkable shopping spree for high-powered assault weapons” while “further radicalizing” himself. . Robertson could be charged with unlawful possession of firearms, the judge noted.


Washington

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