A federal judge on Wednesday assailed the false claims of election fraud pushed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters as she sentenced a member of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to time served, saying the Michigan man “placed his trust in someone who repaid that trust by lying to him.”
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Karl Dresch, a Calumet resident in the Upper Peninsula, that he was an “enthusiastic participant” in an effort to subvert the will of the voters. But the judge said a deal with prosecutors allowing him to plead guilty to a misdemeanor was appropriate because his “actions didn’t match his rhetoric” and he didn’t hurt anyone or destroy anything at the Capitol.
Dresch, who has been locked up since his arrest in January, is being released from jail since he already served the six-month maximum sentence for the misdemeanor offense. His attorney, Jerry Ray Smith Jr., said, “I’m going to be happy to send him home” and declined additional comment.
Later Wednesday, two other Jan. 6 defendants — a Virginia couple who likewise pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges — were also sentenced, and avoided jail time. Jessica Bustle was ordered to serve two months in home confinement and her husband Joshua Bustle received one month home confinement. They will each serve two years of probation.
The three are among more than 500 people charged in the riot that sent lawmakers into hiding and disrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win. About thirty defendants have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges. The first defendant sentenced for a felony – a Florida man who breached the Senate chamber while carrying a Trump campaign flag – received eight months behind bars.
Dresch posted pictures and videos on social media that were taken inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, which he described in one message as the “best day ever,” according to court documents. The day after the riot, he wrote of the then-vice president: “Mike Pence gave our country to the communist hordes, traitor scum like the rest of them, we have your back give the word and we will be back even stronger.”
Jackson slammed Dresch’s views as “misguided,” noting that judge after judge smacked down the former president’s claims of election fraud. She also took a swipe at Republicans who’ve tried to downplay the violence on Jan. 6 — including one lawmaker who suggested that video of the rioters looked like a “tourist visit” — calling Dresch “not your typical tourist.”
“At the end of the day, the fact is that the defendant came to the Capitol because he placed his trust in someone who repaid that trust by lying to him,” the judge said.
“Your vote doesn’t count anymore than anyone else’s. You don’t get to cancel them out and call for a war because you don’t like the results of the election,” Jackson told him.
In another hearing, lawyers for Joshua and Jessica Bustle, of Bristow, Virginia, argued that their punishments should be no different than the first Jan. 6 defendant to be sentenced, who received only probation for a misdemeanor offense. The Bustles admitted to entering the Capitol through a door that had been breached by other rioters and staying inside for about 20 minutes.
Their lawyers noted that they didn’t engage in any violence and said their clients have already faced consequences as a result of their actions. Joshua Bustle’s attorney, Timothy Anderson, said he lost his job and the couple is moving from Virginia to North Carolina to start over.
“They have lost everything in the court of public opinion,” Anderson said.
Jessica Bustle posted a picture of herself on Facebook before the riot with the caption: “We don’t win this thing sitting on the sidelines. Excited to stand for truth with my fellow patriots and freedom fighters in DC today.” Afterwards, she wrote that “Pence is a traitor.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said he had “seriously considered” putting Jessica Bustle in jail, citing her Facebook comments. But he ultimately decided against incarceration, describing her as remorseful.
Also Wednesday, authorities arrested a Missouri man who told Newsweek that he dressed up like George Washington at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as “a nod to America’s founding,” according to a court filing.
Isaac Samuel Yoder brought the colonial attire when he agreed to meet with FBI agents in March, the filing says. Yoder told the agents that he saw barricades and broken windows before he entered the Capitol, according to the FBI.
Associated Press reporter Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report. Richer reported from Boston.