24-year-old Gracyn Coutright was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building after entering the Capitol building on January 6. Courtright was initially facing additional charges but agreed to a plea deal earlier in the year.
Despite not having any criminal record whatsoever, Courtright was sentenced to 30 days in jail by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee. She was also sentenced to one year of monitored release and must undergo a court ordered “mental health treatment.”
Courtright, who was 23 at the time of the Capitol protests, was an engineering student at the University of Kentucky. She was later suspended from the university following her arrest. She was initially facing additional charges of theft/embezzlement of U.S. property, disorderly conduct, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, but those were tossed following the plea agreement. Courtright was arrested after posting photos to social media that showed her holding a “member’s only” sign.
Prosecutors were seeking six months in prison for the guilty plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Fletcher said that the government had received evidence that Courtright was on the Senate floor on Jan. 6 only after she had entered her guilty plea. Fletcher said that if they had that evidence prior to her plea, prosecutors would have seriously considered charging her with obstructing an official proceeding, resulting in even more prison time.
The hearing was briefly paused on Friday when Courtright went to speak but became emotional while doing so. Cooper then called a five-minute recess as she was struggling to speak. “Take a deep breath, compose yourself,” Cooper told her. “There’s no rush.” Once the hearing resumed, Courtright spoke on the record. “I didn’t understand where all this was headed just yet,” Courtright told Cooper. “I didn’t realize that what I had done was so horrible in that moment. I was just trying to defend myself. I couldn’t take anymore of people telling me that I’m a horrible person,” she said, adding: “I am a horrible person.”
“I have no one else to blame but myself,” she said. “I even hold my head down and don’t make eye contact with my neighbors when I see them driving on the road for fear of what they might think of me,” she also said. “Certain encounters, like when you check out at a store and when they ask you for email or phone number, have become almost unbearable for me. The whole time, I wonder do they recognize my face, do they recognize me?”
The judge then proceeded to chastise Courtright while insinuating, without evidence, that the crowd wanted to murder people. “In my view, if you or any citizen wants to participate in our democracy or get involved in government or politics, casting an informed vote is the price of admission,” Cooper said. It’s not sports, it’s certainly not resorting to violence when your team doesn’t win the game.”
The judge then took note of Cooper’s age and insinuated, without evidence, that congressional staffers were in danger of being murdered by the crowd. “Luckily, because of coronavirus there weren’t as many staffers there,” Cooper said. “But there were some folks just about your age, congressional staffers on the other side of those doors thinking they better call their family, because this may be it.”