A Columbus man was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday after unsuccessfully arguing that he was not at fault for joining insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Dustin Byron Thompson blamed then-president Donald Trump for directing him to assault the Capitol, where he stole a coat rack, booze and pager.
A federal jury found Thompson, 38, guilty in April of one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding, and five misdemeanor offenses.
On Friday, Thompson appeared in federal court in Washington D.C., where U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton sentenced him to three years in prison and three years of probation. Walton also ordered Thompson to pay $2,000 in restitution. Thompson will receive credit for time served in jail.
U.S. attorneys had asked for a sentence of five years and 10 months in prison. Thompson’s attorney, Andrew M. Stewart, argued for a one-year prison sentence.
Many defendants from the Capitol riots have taken plea deals, but Thompson chose to fight his charges at trial using a novel defense.
“I was following presidential orders,” Thompson testified at his trial.
Columbus defense attorney Sam Shamansky argued at the trial that Thompson and others had been brainwashed to believe the 2020 presidential election — which President Joe Biden won by more than seven million votes — was stolen and were acting on the direction of Trump to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
In a letter to the court asking for a lenient sentence, Thompson apologized and blamed the misinformation and conspiracy theory rabbit hole he fell down during the pandemic.
“I love America and I’m ashamed of my actions on that day,” Thompson said at his sentencing hearing. “There’s no excuse for what I did.”
In September, Walton sentenced Thompson’s codefendant, Robert Anthony Lyon to 40 days in prison. Lyon, 28, of Reynoldsburg, had taken a plea deal and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges.
Thompson turned down a plea deal from federal prosecutors asking for at least 60 days in prison, according to Stewart, who replaced Shamansky as Thompson’s attorney in May.
Before sentencing Thompson, Walton said he is sympathetic that smart people can be radicalized by lies but noted that a message needs to be sent that attacks on democracy will not be tolerated.
“If you had had your way, you would’ve torn this country down and made this country a dictatorship,” Walton said. “You didn’t love America that day.”
Federal prosecutors wrote in court documents that Lyon and Thompson entered the Senate Parliamentarian’s office inside the Capitol, where insurrectionists were looting the office. The Senate Parliamentarian and her staff played a key role in the Congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election, which the insurrectionists sought to disrupt, prosecutors said.
Thompson stole a bottle of liquor, a coat rack and a pager belonging to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, which he admitted to at trial.
While inside, Thompson took a video of himself celebrating the riot, according to prosecutors.
Thompson, who posed with the coat rack outside, attempted to claim at trial he took the rack to prevent the mob from using it as a weapon against police. Thompson later admitted that testimony was not truthful in his letter to the court seeking leniency.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Kennelly Dreher said during the sentencing hearing that the claim by Thompson at trial, under oath, insulted U.S. Capitol police officers, more than 100 of whom were injured on Jan. 6.
Walton admonished Thompson for lying during the sentencing.
Dreher also pointed out that Thompson wore a bulletproof vest on Jan. 6 — which Thompson claims he found on the ground that day — as proof Thompson was prepared for violence.