WASHINGTON (WJZ/AP) — A Harford County man who pleaded guilty to joining the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol says he is a registered Democrat who wasn’t a supporter of former President Donald Trump and found himself at the scene as an “accidental tourist.” Prosecutors counter that he appeared to be proud of his actions that day.
Robert Reeder, 55, took a train to Washington, D.C., to hear Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 because he had “nothing better to do,” his lawyer said in a court filing Wednesday. Reeder made a “spur of the moment decision and regrettable mistake” when he attended the rally and followed a crowd of people to the Capitol after the speech, the attorney wrote.READ MORE: Harford County Man Robert Reeder Identified Among Capitol Rioters Using Facial Recognition Software, Officials Say
“Mr. Reeder is not politically active, is not and has never been a member of any right-wing or anti-government or extremist group and has, unfortunately, been publicly grouped with many others (whose) views he abhors,” defense attorney Robert Bonsib wrote.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is scheduled to sentence Reeder next Wednesday. The seventh Capitol riot defendant to be sentenced, he faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison after pleading guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. Federal prosecutors have recommended two months.
Reeder recorded himself breaching the Capitol twice, videotaped an officer being assaulted and bragged that he “battle(d) the police,” a prosecutor said in a court filing Friday.
Documents said Reeder contacted federal investigators through his lawyers on Jan. 19 with a compilation of videos taken by him on his cell phone showing himself storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Reeder who was wearing a Make America Great Again hat said several minutes into the video, “We’ve been getting tear-gassed — thousands of people.”
Then about 17 minutes into the same video, Reeder records an assault on a Capitol Police officer. He tells that officer, “You need to retreat!”
About 19 minutes into the video, sometime around 4 p.m., Reeder can be seen outside the U.S. Capitol. He tells the camera, he’s leaving now after spending about 30 minutes inside.
“I’m leaving now, I got tear-gassed at least four times inside the Capitol,” Reeder said. “I saw the lady they say got shot, I walked right past her in a pool of blood. And it’s just completely crazy in there.”
Reeder told the camera he was one of the last people out.READ MORE: Harford County's Robert Reeder Pleads Guilty In U.S. Capitol Riot Attack
“Got shot with pepper balls. It was f****** nuts!” he said. “We had to do battle with the police inside. It was crazy, absolutely insane.”
“For the Defendant, these unlawful acts were a source of pride and accomplishment. For the nation, it was a permanent source of shame and sorrow,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein wrote.
Judges have sentenced five other Capitol rioters who pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor charge as Reeder. Four have avoided jail terms and been sentenced to probation. A fifth defendant who was jailed for six months after the riot was sentenced to time served.
Reeder’s lawyer says the U.S. Probation Office has recommended a sentence of two years of probation, but Hogan isn’t bound by it.
More than 570 people have been charged with federal crimes in the Jan. 6 siege. Three dozen of them had entered guilty pleas as of Thursday.
Reeder, who was arrested in February, isn’t accused of engaging in any violence or property destruction at the Capitol. He described himself to law enforcement as an “accidental tourist with a phone trying to document everything.” But the prosecutor said he was a “rioter violating the law,” not a journalist or a tourist.
“Anything other than a custodial sentence will fail to give the Defendant a dose of reality and deter him from future illegal conduct,” Rothstein wrote.
Reeder decided to go to the Jan. 6 rally because he thought it might be the last time to hear Trump speak, his lawyer said.
“He did not care much for President Trump, although he favored some of President Trump’s policies and he was not a strong supporter of his Democratic opponent in the election,” Bonsib wrote.
(© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)