A far-right fanatic “obsessed” with white nationalist Nick Fuentes was given a three-year prison term on Thursday for storming the U.S. Congress and inciting a ruckus outside Nancy Pelosi’s office, where a laptop was stolen by another rioter.
Riley Williams’ conduct was described as “utterly reprehensible” by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson as she handed down the sentence.”
At Williams’ trial in November, federal prosecutors alleged that he “led an army” up some stairs toward Pelosi’s office and was there when rioters stole the laptop that Pelosi, a Democrat from California, kept in her conference room and used for “all her Zoom meetings.”
Williams’ federal public defender, Lori Ulrich, claimed that while Williams may have “distasteful” opinions, she was a young woman with just a “cellphone and her fuzzy zebra bag,” and at one time even posted that she was “STORMING THE WHITE HOUSE” when she was actually in the legislative branch. Williams “wanted to be someone,” according to her defense.
Williams expressed embarrassment at the behavior of the “young and stupid girl” she now recognizes in those films at the hearing held before her sentencing. She said that she had been “addicted to the internet since before I can remember” and that she is now “a responsible woman.”
Williams was not some “impulsive Gen-Z gadfly,” though, according to Assistant United States Attorney Samuel Dalke “January 6’s “Forrest Gump”
” Williams “participated in domestic terrorism, plain and simple,” Dalke said.
Ultimately, Williams was found guilty of six counts, including felony civil disorder, resisting and obstructing law enforcement, and four misdemeanor charges. The jury could not agree on whether Williams helped to facilitate the theft of Pelosi’s laptop, as well as one count of obstructing an official action.
Jackson, the judge, dismissed the defense’s argument that Williams’ youth, height, and gender lessened her guilt during the sentencing hearing.
Jackson claimed that Williams, 23, exploited her petite stature as an advantage and led the mob “like a coxswain.”
Jackson continued, “I’ve been told she’s a little girl,” noting that Williams is the same age as Fuentes and only a few years older than the youngest congressperson. Williams, according to Jackson, is around the same height and shares the same gender as Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
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Williams apologized before her sentencing, saying she was embarrassed by the “young and stupid” person she saw in the videos she’d watched of herself at the Capitol. She said she’s now a “responsible young woman” and realized she had been “addicted to the internet since before I can remember.”
After the verdict, Jackson ordered Williams’ remand because she had “no confidence whatsoever” in Williams’ regard for the law.
Federal prosecutors had sought 87 months, or more than seven years, in federal prison, arguing that such a sentence would hold Williams accountable “for her outsized and chilling participation in — and furtherance of — the chaos and violence” at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Everywhere she went, Williams acted as an accelerant, exacerbating the mayhem. Where others turned back, she pushed forward. When officers blocked her path, she recruited other rioters, especially larger men wearing helmets and body armor, gathered them together, and pushed them forward like a human battering ram, using the mob to break through the police lines. The officers she faced off with were among those injured,” they wrote in a sentencing memo.
“Then, in the 12 days between the riot and her arrest on January 18, 2021, Williams repeatedly destroyed evidence and tried to evade law enforcement officials: She deleted her social media and communication accounts, instructed others to delete messages and take down videos from the internet, reset her iPhone, switched cellular phones, and used advanced software to wipe her computer,” they wrote.
After the storming of Pelosi’s office, Williams yelled at officers inside the Capitol rotunda, “F–k you. We’ll remember your f—–g face,” and “You’re a traitor. You’re a traitor to this country,” prosecutors said. She later bragged that she was “right in front of the police calling them traitors” and pushing up against police. Williams spent about 90 minutes inside the building and climbed on top of a tactical police vehicle when she left, they wrote.
“I’ve been told what I did was wrong by everybody but in my heart and soul I know what we did was patriotic and what is right and anybody who says otherwise should be condemned,” Williams wrote to her dad, who traveled with her to Washington on Jan. 14, 2021, prosecutors said.
Williams’ legal team asked for a sentence of one year and one day in prison.
“A sentence of 12 months and 1 day is reflective of the seriousness of Ms. Williams’ conduct of January 6th and provides just punishment for what she did on that day,” they wrote. “It also is reflective of Ms. Williams’ characteristics — particularly her youth and lack of appropriate parental guidance, and takes into account that she has no criminal history.”
Before January 6, Williams’ fiance claimed in a letter to the court that she was “addicted to the internet” and was “seeking attention and [affirmation] from anyone she could.” He claimed that she improved as a Christian and now only desired to fulfill her roles as “a mother, wife, and a servant to God.” According to Ian Hoyt Franz, she wishes to homeschool her children and instill in them the values of “virtue, honor, and love.” She also wants to have cows for milk and sheep for their wool.
“When Riley is finally done and able to return home I plan on marrying her and starting a life together. Buying some land and getting her those sheep,” Franz wrote. “How much more does she have to go through? I don’t know how long Riley needs to be away for, but no matter the time me and her family will patiently wait for her release.”
Her mother wrote that Williams “longs for a simple life” and that her dream is to have “a home on a large plot of land, a large family, lots of vegetables and fruits growing in a garden, and farm animals to raise for their own consumption.”
Williams, her mother wrote, “realized what a blessing it was to be forced off the internet” after she was arrested and “found other interests, such as crocheting.”
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Emma is a Master of Science candidate at the California Institute of Technology. Since approximately four years ago, she has been a freelance writer, producing content for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and the internet