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(WASHINGTON) — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Robert Packer, the Jan. 6 rioter seen in photos wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, to 75 days in prison.
Packer had previously pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of demonstrating inside the U.S. Capitol building.
The black-hooded sweatshirt Packer donned during the riot, prosecutors said, showed “Camp Auschwitz” and “Work Means Freedom” with a skull image on the front, and “STAFF” written on the back. Underneath his sweatshirt, he wore another Nazi-inspired t-shirt, they said.
The prosecution argued that although Packer did not post on social media, he broadcasted his beliefs on his clothes.
The defense countered that if Packer had short hair, no beard, and was wearing a different shirt, he might be viewed differently.
When Judge Carl Nichols asked why Packer was wearing the shirt, the defense said he “cannot explain” why he was wearing it, but that it was a “free speech” issue.
“I just don’t think it is appropriate to make him serve more time because he is wearing that shirt, because he is allowed to wear it,” his lawyer said.
Packer’s attorney further claimed Packer takes offense to being called a white supremacist, because he “does not see himself that way at all.”
In delivering his sentencing decision, Nichols said “although he did not carry a sign, he wore a distinctive and incredibly offensive shirt.”
The judge said he can infer Packer wore the shirt for a reason, although he does not know that reason, because Packer has not told the court.
While Packer was charged with a misdemeanor, the prosecution requested 75 days of incarceration, followed by three years of probation and 60 hours of community service.
The prosecution noted that Packer’s actions should be considered within the context of the violence of Jan. 6. Although he himself did not perpetuate any acts of violence, they said, the mob would not have succeeded in overwhelming the police, breaching the Capitol, and disrupting the proceedings without his actions, alongside others who did the same.
The judge stated that Packer’s presence, although not inherently violent, “prevents police from dealing with people who are.”
Prosecutors added that the sentencing should deter crime generally, “the most compelling reason to impose a sentence of incarceration.” Because the Jan. 6 rioters directly interfered with democracy, they said, “the gravity of these offenses demands deterrence.”
They said they were justified asking for prison time because Packer ignored police barricades, ignored police officers telling rioters to stop, watched assaults on police officers and Capitol property without leaving or trying to stop them, entered the speaker’s hallway and Statuary Hall, and has not expressed remorse for his actions.
“He was just walking around, looking, to me,” the defense countered. “He is as close to a bystander as you can get in this case.”
“He shouldn’t have stayed there for as long as he did; the question is does he need to go to jail for it,” his defense lawyer said.
Prosecutors added that Packer has been a “habitual criminal offender for 25 years with 21 convictions for mostly drunk driving, but also for larceny, drug possession, and forgery.” He was incarcerated for several previous offenses, they said.
The defense said that his record does not stem from an “evil mind” but a “disease” of alcoholism.
Packer did not make any comments to the court during his sentencing.
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