Two men who spent 40 minutes in the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection were each sentenced to 45 days in prison on Wednesday, marking the first time non-violent rioters who were not already incarcerated will be sent to jail.
District Judge James Boasberg sentenced Air Force veteran Derek Jancart and his friend Erik Rau, both from Ohio, to serve 45 days. The friends pleaded guilty in July to disorderly conduct inside the Capitol. Prosecutors say the two made it as far as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s conference room before being pushed out by police.
“You attempted with others to undermine one of our bedrock acts, which is the peaceful transition of power after an election,” Boasberg said during the first of the two sentencings. “When you try to eliminate that principle, you strike at the heart of our democracy.”
The sentence could serve as a benchmark for other judges as they deal with hundreds of other low-level cases. Several defendants charged with misdemeanors have avoided jail time. But prosecutors have said they’ll push for jail time in misdemeanor cases where rioters encouraged or celebrated violence.
Prosecutors had sought four months behind bars for Jancart and Rau, arguing that while they didn’t commit violent acts, they encouraged the violence on January 6 and celebrated the riot afterwards.
But Boasberg said he had to find “the best balance” between the gravity of the insurrection and the actual conduct of each defendant.
“There are many people who I think would say, ‘We were at the rally; we followed the crowd and just went along,’” Boasberg said. “But you went back to your hotel and only left your hotel to come back to the Capitol when you heard the Capitol was breached. … That’s significant. You weren’t following the crowd. You went back to help.”
Jancart, according to plea documents, brought a gas mask and two-way radio to Washington in preparation for January 6. Rau brought Kevlar gloves and medical supplies.
In video highlighted by prosecutors, Rau shouted “we have you surrounded” at police and celebrated when the mob broke through a police line.
Both men apologized on Wednesday during the virtual court hearing.
“I kind of let myself get caught up in the moment. … I feel shame for what I did that day” Jancart said.
“There is no excuse for my actions on January 6th” Rau said, at times struggling to speak. “There is no excuse for even leaving my hotel to go over there. I can’t tell you how much this has just twisted my stomach every day since it happened.”
So far, more than 85 Capitol riot defendants have pleaded guilty to federal charges. Nine have been sentenced.
Jancart is the first veteran to be sentenced for participating in the insurrection. At least 65 veterans are facing charges stemming from their conduct on January 6, according to CNN’s latest tally.