Riley June Williams has been sentenced to three years in prison along with three years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine. You’re to be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Ms. Williams since she isn’t exactly a household name, but she was one of the rioters who went into the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. She was just 22 years old at the time. Prosecutors had done their best to throw the book at the young woman, asking for more than seven years in prison. Her attorney requested one year and one day. The judge apparently felt that three years was a compromise. But as with so many of these show trials, a closer look at what Williams was actually accused of and the charges where they managed to obtain convictions doesn’t exactly paint the picture of a dangerous desperado. (Associated Press)
A Pennsylvania woman linked to a far-right extremist movement was sentenced on Thursday to three years in prison for storming the U.S. Capitol, where she invaded then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with other rioters.
Riley June Williams, 23, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was charged but not convicted of helping steal a laptop from Pelosi’s office suite during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
A federal jury convicted Williams in November of six charges, including a felony count of civil disorder, after a two-week trial. But it deadlocked on two other counts, including “aiding and abetting” the laptop’s theft.
You can read the full Justice Department report on the case here.
It’s unclear if breaching the Capitol was even Riley’s own idea. She reportedly traveled to Washington “with her father and his friends.” You have to wonder how much of an influence her father played in her actions that day. One thing that is clear is that Williams wasn’t one of the actual rioters who damaged the building or attacked the Capitol Hill Police. A quick look at her picture from the linked AP article will show you that she appears to weigh all of maybe 110 pounds soaking wet. But she did admit to stealing a gavel from Nancy Pelosi’s office on social media, so she was technically rioting, I suppose. (There is some confusion on that point, which we’ll get to in a moment.)
Riley entered the building through a door that had already been broken open by others. Once inside she allegedly “yelled at” some of the police officers. Prosecutors described her actions as “acting as an accelerant, exacerbating the mayhem.” (Whatever that’s supposed to mean.) She was also accused of “using men wearing helmets and body armor like a human battering ram,” pushing them toward some of the Capitol Hill Police from behind. How much actual “pushing” of adult men the slightly-built young lady could manage was not explained.
She eventually reached Pelosi’s office and, as mentioned above, she later claimed to have stolen a gavel from the then-Speaker’s desk. I did some shopping online and found that most of the really nice wooden gavels can be purchased for less than fifty bucks. But let’s just say that Nancy Pelosi had a really top-of-the-line gavel made of crystal. That’s still less than 200 dollars. With apologies to the prosecutors, there’s no such thing as Grand Theft Gavel. But while the AP article claims she stole the gavel, there is no indication in the Justice Department report that she was even charged with theft, to say nothing of being convicted. Given how desperately the prosecutors seemed to be trying to charge her with everything under the sun, why would they pass on the opportunity to take her down for theft? We may never know.
At her trial, the jury didn’t seem to be too impressed with the monstrous nature of Riley’s crimes. They failed to convict her of “obstructing an official proceeding.” That’s the big ticket item that supposedly made the riot “an insurrection.” They also refused to convict her of “aiding and abetting” the theft of a laptop from Pelosi’s office. How does one even do that? How many people does it take to steal a laptop? Did she point at it and yell, “look! There’s a laptop?”
In the end, Riley Williams was convicted of interfering with law enforcement officers, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers, disorderly conduct, and, of course, “parading.” (They’ve charged everyone from the riot with parading.) And for that, the now-23-year-old Williams was sent to prison for three years. This is happening while actual rioters in California and Oregon who smash the windows out of stores and steal as much as $1,000 worth of retail merchandise are given probation if they are even pursued at all. It’s one hell of a justice system we’ve got going here, isn’t it?