Capitol rioter makes tearful apology as she’s sentenced

By Graeme Massie
Getty Images

A Capitol rioter made a tearful apology as she was sentenced for taking part in the 6 January insurrection.

Esther Schwemmer, 56, told a judge she was “deeply ashamed” of taking part in the deadly pro-Trump riot in Washington DC last year.

“Nothing about it was Christ-like … I hope with time I can forgive myself,” she told US District Judge Dabney Friedrich.

Schwemmer, of Leavenworth, Kansas, was sentenced on Monday to two years probation and 60 hours of community service for her part in the riot.

She must also pay $500 in restitution for damage to the Capitol building, which prosecutors have estimated at $1.5m.

Schwemmer had faced up to six months in prison, five years’ probation and a $5,000 fine.

Prosecutors say that she travelled to Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington DC last January with her friend, Jennifer Ruth Parks, 61.

She then entered the Capitol building with the one-term president’s supporters as the mob tried to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

Both pleaded guilty to a single charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in Capitol building.

Parks, of Leavenworth, Kansas, was sentenced in December to two years’ probation, 60 hours of community service and $500 in restitution.

The judge told Schwemmer that “none of us are defined by the worst mistake we made”.

“So I hope you can forgive yourself. I do appreciate your, what I think is genuine remorse here.”

But the judge said that despite her remorse she had pleaded guilty to a “serious offense”.

“Ms Schwemmer was part of the large, violent crowd that reached the U.S. Capitol just over a year ago … And despite what she said at the time of the offense, her actions were in no way an act of patriotism, nor was it an exercise of her First Amendment rights,” the judge  said.

“She was clearly trespassing, she had no right to be there, and her actions indirectly subjected law enforcement officers whose job it is to protect the Capitol and members of Congress and others who were inside the Capitol to great risk.”

In a letter to the judge, the retired hairstylist apologised to the Capitol Police and members and employees of Congress.

“I regret the loss of life, the fear members of Congress must have felt, and law enforcement working that day,” she wrote.

“While I did not personally damage any property or injure anyone, I realise my presence that day added to the chaos that caused death, physical injury and emotional distress to others.

“Your honour, I can promise you that you will never see me committing another offense for the rest of my life.”

Four people at the rally died on January 6, with three others dying form “medical emergencies” at the same time.

Following the attack, four more police officers who were on duty that day died by suicide.

Prosecutors have charged more than 700 people with alleged crimes, with at least 225 people charged with assaulting or resisting law enforcement officers.

Officials say that around 140 members of law enforcement were assaulted during the riot.

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