The Pennsylvania woman who was accused—and ultimately acquitted—of stealing Nancy Pelosi’s laptop from the US Capitol building on Jan. 6 will spend years behind bars for her role as an “accelerant” in the deadly riot.
Riley June Williams, 23, was sentenced to 3 years in prison on Thursday. She was seen climbing a bike rack barricade that had been overturned to climb a wall and joined the hordes of Donald Trump supporters clashing with law enforcement as Congress had begun to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral win. Williams breached the Capitol building through the Senate Wing Door just two minutes after rioters had first violently broken through.
Once inside, she allegedly pushed other rioters to go deeper into the building, organized some of them into a “human battering ram” in order to break through police lines, and “berated” police officers, prosecutors say. She also directed rioters to lock arms in order to resist law enforcement efforts to clear the building, according to the Justice Department.
During the 90 minutes she spent illegally inside the Capitol, she made her way to the Capitol Crypt, the Rotunda, and—perhaps most memorably—then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite.
“Take that f—— laptop,” Williams allegedly instructed another rioter, according to prosecutors. She also apparently told him to “put on gloves” in order to avoid being identified. Prosecutors also say that Williams apparently bragged about her leadership role in the riot and participation in the office thefts.
According to a top Pelosi aide, staffers to the then-highest ranking lawyer were forced to spend hours sheltering in place in an interior office as rioters ransacked the suite.
As Law&Crime previously reported, investigators believed Williams might have tried to sell the device to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. Authorities also believed that Williams had gone on the run after being identified in a Jan. 6 video, destroying evidence and evading law enforcement, but her lawyer insisted she was fleeing an abusive ex-boyfriend.
A jury convicted Williams in November of two felonies—interfering with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder and resisting or impeding law enforcement officers—and four trespassing and disorderly conduct misdemeanors.
The jury deadlocked, however, on the theft of government property and obstruction charges, which prosecutors later dropped. She faced a statutory maximum of eight years in prison on the resisting and impeding charge, five on the civil disorder charge, and a combined three years for the misdemeanors.
Although Williams had been out on pretrial release ahead of her trial, the judge ordered her detained pending sentencing.
Williams was hoping to serve no more than one year and one day behind bars, according to her brief.
Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 87 months in prison, arguing that she was an “accelerant” to the riot.
“Everywhere she went, Williams acted as an accelerating, exacerbating the mayhem,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing brief. “Where others turned back, she pushed forward. When officers blocked her path, she recruited other rioters, especially larger men wearing helmets and body armor, gathered them together, and pushed them forward like a human battering ram, using the mob as a weapon to break through the police lines. The officers she faced off with were among those injured.”
williams, an apparent fan of white nationalist Nick Fuentes, reportedly told US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that she was embarrassed by her own actions that day.
“I barely recognize the stupid girl who was yelling at police,” she said, according to the New York Times.
Williams also told the judge that she is now a “responsible woman” and had been addicted to the internet since before I can remember,” NBC News reported.
Jackson rejected Williams’ claims that she was too young or too physically small to be held accountable, the New York Times reported. The judge apparently described Williams as acting “like a coxswain on a crew team” during her time inside the building, as she was seen “handpicking” larger rioters, including those wearing protective gear, to whom she “gave directions about where to go and how to behave from the minute she got in,” the New York Times reported.
“She was not just a little waif blowing in the wind,” Judge Jackson said, according to the New York Times story.
After serving her prison sentence, Williams will spend three years on supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution toward the nearly $2.9 million in estimated damage and costs to the Capitol.
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