Online threats draw longest term yet in Capitol riot probe
A man who pleaded guilty to posting threats on social media in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol was sentenced Thursday to 14 months in prison, the longest term to date resulting from the federal investigation of the insurrection.
Troy Smocks of Dallas traveled to the nation’s capital before the Jan. 6 siege but he was not accused of storming the building to support the false claims that President Donald Trump had won reelection.
Smocks has been in jail since his arrest Jan. 15. One of the few Black people among the 600-plus defendants charged so far, Smocks argued that his treatment has been unfair compared with others who did enter the Capitol.
“I’m no Dr. King, but we do share same the skin color and the same idea of justice. I just want to be treated equally,” he said at his sentencing.
But U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said she had not seen a “scintilla of evidence” that prosecutions had been racially motivated and she noted that Smocks expressed little remorse.
“People died fighting for civil rights,” she said. “For you to hold yourself up as somehow a soldier in that fight is very audacious.”
The sentence exceeded what prosecutors requested — the time he has already served in jail, during which he tested positive for COVID-19.
On Jan. 6, Smocks posted threats to “hunt these cowards down,” targeting “RINOS, Dems, and Tech Execs” — words that were viewed tens of thousands of times on the social network Parler. “RINO” stands for ”Republican In Name Only.”
Smocks has a two-decade-long criminal history, and prosecutors said he had bought a plane ticket to leave the country shortly before his arrest.
His social media accounts indicated he had been a colonel, but authorities found no record of military service. Prosecutors found evidence he had long passed himself off as veteran and had a history of fraud-related convictions from the 1980s to 2006, though he had stayed out of legal trouble over the past two decades.
Smocks’ sentence was the longest since an eight-month term handed down in July to a crane operator from Florida who breached the U.S. Senate chamber while carrying a Trump campaign flag.