SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former Coronado resident and U.S. Army veteran was sentenced Tuesday to three months in prison for taking part in the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jeffrey Alexander Smith, 34, pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating and picketing in a Capitol building for his role in the siege, which included moving a barricade placed in front of closed doors, through which a "mob of rioters" eventually gained access to the Capitol, according to prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton confirmed a tentative sentence he imposed last month, which includes two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.
At the sentencing hearing, Smith said "I understand what I did was wrong. I'm willing to pay for it. I know what I did was wrong and I know I need to do my time for it."
According to the prosecution's sentencing memorandum, Smith and others moved iron benches that were placed in front of closed doors in the Capitol building, but three police officers intervened. Before the officers could move the benches back, another crowd of people started pushing toward the doors, "sandwiching the three officers between the crowd and the doors."
Smith joined the crowd and when the doors were eventually opened, he "gave a victorious fist pump," then directed rioters toward the third level of the Capitol, which houses the galleries for the Senate and House chambers.
Prosecutors say the crowd that entered "included violent members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who were dressed in full battle gear like they were going to war."
After the crowd surged inside, Smith joined others in antagonizing a group of police officers standing guard "outside an access point to the Office of the Speaker of the House," according to the memorandum.
At one point, prosecutors say, "Smith told the officers to `stand down,' and warned them, `We're getting in there one way or another."'
A physical altercation soon ensued between the crowd and officers, which left at least one officer injured, though video evidence does not make clear whether Smith personally took part in that altercation.
Prior to imposing the sentence, Walton said, "It's just hard for me to appreciate how someone who is an American citizen, who has served in the military, has the mentality that Mr. Smith engaged in."
In text messages to others, officials say Smith wrote, "I'm a Patriot," "I stormed the capital," and stated that he was taking part in the insurrection to send a message that Americans were not "going to take a fraudulent election" and "There is no way in hell I was going to drive 38 hours from San Diego and not walk right through the front of the (Capitol) building."
Speaking to fraudulent election claims, Walton said he hoped things didn't get to a point "where either side, whether it be someone who's supporting whatever party, feels that because `my side's best' and `my side lost' than that gives me the right to engage in what happened on Jan. 6 of last year ... If one side's not willing to accept the reality of an election, then we are really headed down a road where we're going to see our democracy die."
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