QAnon supporter gets five years for January 6 Capitol attack

US construction worker accused of ‘weaponising’ Trump supporters during the January 6 riot faces rebuke from judge.

Douglas Jensen, with arms outstretched, stands in front of police inside the Capitol building
Douglas Jensen confronts Capitol law enforcement on January 6, 2021, as Trump supporters attempted to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential elections [File: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

An Iowa construction worker who stormed the United States Capitol building on January 6, 2021, has been sentenced to five years in prison for his role in attempting to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Prosecutors accused Douglas Jensen of Des Moines, Iowa, of chasing law enforcement and rallying supporters during the attack, while carrying a three-inch blade in his pocket.

In September, he was convicted on all seven felony counts he faced, including obstructing an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding a law enforcement officer.

In his sentencing hearing on Friday, US District Court Judge Timothy Kelly emphasised the “big role” Jensen played in the deadly attack by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters.

But Kelly said he wasn’t sure if Jensen understood the gravity of his actions.

“It snapped our previously unbroken tradition of peaceful transfer of power. We can’t get that back,” Kelly said in an address to Jensen. “I wish I could say I had evidence you understood this cannot be repeated.”

Jensen also received three years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine as part of his sentencing.

His case is among the 900 arrests that the justice department has made since the January 6 riot. The department estimates that 470 have pleaded guilty to federal charges, and 185 defendants have been sentenced to prison so far.

Jensen’s sentencing also comes as the January 6 committee in the US House of Representatives prepares to hold its final public hearing on Monday, with a full report expected to be published on December 21.

The attack on the Capitol took place in the wake of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump, the Republican incumbent, who falsely claimed the 2020 presidential contest was marred by widespread fraud.

“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump told the crowd at a “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House shortly before the riot broke out. He also called on then-Vice President Mike Pence – who was set to preside over a joint session of Congress that day – to reject the vote count.

The justice department reported that Jensen received a text message alerting him to the impending certification, to which he replied, “That’s all about to change,” followed by a winking emoji.

Dressed in a dark shirt emblazoned with a logo of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Jensen is said to have climbed a retaining wall on the west front of the Capitol in order to enter the building through a broken window at around 2pm that afternoon.

The justice department alleges he was the tenth person to illegally penetrate the building.

By the end of the day, upwards of 2,000 people had flooded into the Capitol, according to department estimates.

Once inside, prosecutors said that Jensen worked his way to the front of a crowd near the Capitol’s East Grand Stairs, where he confronted Capitol police officers, ignoring commands to stop.

He then proceeded to chase Officer Eugene Goodman up the stairs to a corridor outside the Senate Chamber, where Goodman found backup. Goodman has since received the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his bravery as he tried to steer the protesters away from lawmakers.

As Jensen faced police, he is reported to have yelled, “Go arrest the vice president.”

After being forced to exit the Capitol by law enforcement, Jensen then reentered the building, before being ejected again, according to the justice department.

During his trial, prosecutors told the jury that Jensen set out to be “the poster boy of the insurrection”, encouraging others to take violent action.

“The defendant wasn’t just leading the mob. He was weaponising it,” Assistant US Attorney Hava Mirell said during the trial. “He knew he had the numbers, and he was willing to use them.”

But Jensen’s defence argued that Jensen had no intention to storm the Capitol or be violent. His lawyers said a “childhood of horrors” led Jensen to be vulnerable to conspiracy theories like QAnon, which asserts – without proof – that an anonymous official named “Q” is leaking top-secret information online about a ring of child traffickers in the US government.

Followers of QAnon believed that Trump would help dismantle this “deep state” ring.

Defence lawyer Christopher Davis also underscored that Jensen did not physically hurt anyone or damage property while inside the Capitol.

Jensen turned himself in to the Des Moines Police Department on January 8, 2021, and admitted to chasing officer Goodman and disobeying police commands.

Jenson told police at the time that he intentionally positioned himself at the front of the crowd during the Capitol attack because he wanted his QAnon T-shirt to be captured on video.

According to justice department documents, he explained that he wanted “Q” – the figure at the heart of the conspiracy theory – to “get the credit” for what was happening that day.

At his sentencing on Friday, Jensen offered a brief statement, describing himself as a “family man” and articulating a wish to return to “my normal life before I got involved in politics”. He did not testify at his own trial.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies