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Idaho woman gets 2 months jail for U.S. Capitol riot actions

May 24, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho woman was sentenced Tuesday to two months in jail for her participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol building.

Pam Hemphill of Boise will also be on probation for three years and must pay a $500 fine, U.S. District Senior Judge Royce Lamberth said.

Hemphill pleaded guilty earlier this year to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol building. In exchange, prosecutors dropped three additional misdemeanor charges.

During Hemphill’s sentencing hearing, Lamberth said it’s “tempting to be lenient,” but he can’t justify letting her just walk away after her offenses at the Capitol.

“Because it’s such a serious event in the history of our country, that I have to agree with the government’s recommendation in this case,” the judge said. “I believe there has to be a penalty when there is a serious offense like this.”

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Like many other defendants who have been charged in connection with the siege, Hemphill posted videos to social media sites that showed her in Washington, D.C., in the days surrounding the insurrection and at the Capitol when it was happening.

In one video, she compared breaking windows at the federal building to actions protesters at the Idaho Statehouse had taken the previous year. In another, she said she avoided getting into trouble after being found inside the Capitol by telling police that she became lost after being pushed into the building by the crowd. The videos were later removed.

“Sometimes when I see those videos I want to give you the maximum,” Lamberth said. “Also, know you appear to me to be a sincere person who made a mistake. I can’t justify for anyone who ended up in your posture here to just walk away.”

Hemphill told the judge that she regrets everything she said and did on Jan. 6. She said she intended to record the protest but got caught up in the moment.

“It was as if I was at a football game cheering the team on from the stands,” Hemphill said. “I never should have left the stands in the first place.”

But Prosecutor Sonia Mittal told the judge that Hemphill repeatedly told police at the Capitol that she needed help, then egged the crowd on and filmed the violence against police. She also lied to officers, claiming she was trying to calm the crowd and that she had been pushed into the Capitol by other rioters, the prosecutor said.

“This defendant repeatedly asked police for help while undermining their efforts,” Mittal said, and “consistently drew resources away from police while they were desperately needed.”

Mittal also noted that Hemphill was involved in the protest at the Idaho Statehouse a year earlier that resulted in glass in a door being shattered as protesters tried to yank it open. The prosecutor rejected Hemphill’s claim of being a “citizen journalist.”

“This is not the actions of a journalist,” Mittal said. “This is the action of a rioter.”

Hemphill’s attorney, Nathan Silver II, said she “either followed the crowd or helped urge it on, but she didn’t harm the police.”

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“I think she got carried away with all the excitement and said things that she never should have said,” Silver told the judge.

More than 800 defendants have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol insurrection. More than 290 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and more than 170 have been sentenced.