Capitol riot: Woman accused of stealing Pelosi’s laptop sentenced

US prosecutors say Riley June Williams acted as an ‘accelerant’ who ‘exacerbated the mayhem’ on January 6, 2021.

January 6
About 1,000 people have so far been charged with federal crimes in relation to the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021 [File: Leah Millis/AP Photo]

A woman who was accused of helping to steal then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during the January 6, 2021, storming of the United States Capitol has been sentenced to three years in prison on riot-related charges.

Riley June Williams, 23, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was sentenced on Thursday despite a jury in November not reaching a verdict on a charge of “aiding and abetting the laptop’s theft”.

The jury in November was also deadlocked on a charge of obstructing an official proceeding, a reference to the protesters’ disruption of Congress, which was meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory when the riot broke out.

Instead, Williams was found guilty on four other counts, including a felony count of disruption.

Riley June Williams has been sentenced to prison for her role in the January 6 Capitol riot [Dauphin County Prison via AP Photo]

Prosecutors, in requesting that US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentence Williams to seven years and three months in prison, called the convicted woman an “accelerant” who “exacerbated the mayhem”.

“Where others turned back, she pushed forward,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Williams’s defence, meanwhile, said that her youth and gender set her aside from the majority of people present on January 6.

“In other ways she is similar to many of other January 6th defendants with no prior criminal record, that were caught up with the mob that day, acting on impulse and without thought to the consequences of their actions,” the defence wrote.

They requested a one-year prison term for Williams, who was 22 years old at the time of the Capitol attack.

Jackson’s three-year sentence handed down on Thursday also included three years of supervised release and a restitution fee of $2,000, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Prosecutors said Williams was an ardent supporter of the “Groyper” white national movement, led by online personality Nick Fuentes who infamously dined with Trump and rapper Kanye West, now known as Ye, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in November 2022.

Prosecutors said Williams became “obsessed” with Fuentes as he pushed unfounded claims of fraud spread by Trump in the wake of his 2020 election loss.

William’s defence had argued that her political beliefs should not factor into the sentencing.

But prosecutors detailed how Williams took part in a day of destruction on January 6, after arriving in Washington, DC clad in an “I’m with Groyper” T-shirt.

She attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before heading to the Capitol where she entered through a Senate Wing Door two minutes after other rioters breached the entrance, prosecutors said.

Inside the Capitol, she used men wearing helmets and body armour like a “human battering ram” to break through police lines, they said.

Meanwhile, in Pelosi’s office, she stole a gavel and encouraged another rioter to take a laptop from a table.

“As the other rioter later manipulated the laptop and its cords, Williams filmed the theft that she had just commanded and encouraged, and further instructed the rioter, ‘Dude, put on gloves!'” prosecutors said in court documents.

All told, Williams spent nearly 90 minutes inside the Capitol, prosecutors said.

Before her arrest, prosecutors alleged that Williams also destroyed evidence, deleting her social media accounts, resetting her iPhone and using software to wipe her computer.

That was after Williams bragged online that she had stolen Pelosi’s gavel, laptop and hard drives and that she “gave the electronic devices, or attempted to give them, to unspecified Russian individuals”, prosecutors said.

“To date, neither the laptop nor the gavel has been recovered,” they said in a June 2022 court filing.

About 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. More than 400 have been sentenced, with more than half of them receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies