For his storming of the Capitol and his attempt to obstruct proceedings on Jan. 6 while carrying a weapon, former Rocky Mount, Virginia police officer Thomas Robertson was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison on Thursday, with three years of supervised release to follow.
Robertson will receive credit for the 12 months he has already spent in prison. He is to receive mental health counseling as well.
The 49-year-old used a wooden stick to beat back the police who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then later destroyed his cell phone in an attempt to conceal his crimes. According to the Associated Press, Robertson did not speak at his sentencing hearing at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday.
Presiding U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, told Robertson he was concerned that Robertson perceived “partisan politics as war.”
After his arrest, Robertson was initially released on bail, but as he awaited trial, the FBI was prompted to execute a search warrant at his Virginia home after he was found buying guns online, violating his bond. Last June, during the search of his property, agents found a loaded rifle, a half-assembled pipe bomb, and several boxes of ammunition. He was jailed thereafter.
“I sincerely believe you would answer a call to duty if something like this were to happen again,” Cooper said Thursday, according to a local Virginia NBC news affiliate.
Ahead of sentencing, Robertson’s lawyers sought leniency and, to that end, recounted his experience in the military and shared testimony and letters of support from those people Robertson identified as trusted friends, including members of local Virginia law enforcement.
When prosecutors had the FBI check out the credibility of the claims his defense attorneys made, however, they turned up concerning and conflicting information.
Robertson’s stint in the military was not what he described. He claimed publicly that he was trained as an Army sniper and ranger and that he received a Purple Heart and Bronze star. The FBI turned up records that showed Robertson was, in fact, discharged just three weeks after basic training in 1991.
The reason provided? A “lack of motivation.”
Robertson did reenlist 15 years later but had no special training. He served with the Virginia National Guard for less than a year in Iraq and worked as a contractor in Afghanistan.
Further, where retired police chief Dennis Deacon of Boones Mill, Virginia, had called Robertson’s conduct on Jan. 6 totally “out of character” in his support statement, the FBI turned up conversations suggesting otherwise.
“I swear to you both that you will never hear of me surrendering to be a political prisoner, and I will make them pay dearly, and think twice before coming for anyone else,” Robertson texted Deacon three months after his arrest.
FBI Sentencing Investigation Notes for Sentencing Robertson by Daily Kos on Scribd
Robertson continued: “I’m not planning on doing anything crazy, but I am done being civil about it. If they come here again, many will die. Possibly me, definitely many of them. I am not thinking crazy, I am not going insane. I’m done. They seem to be pressing a war, and I aim to give them more than they want. They seem to believe that might means right. They need to understand at a primal level that they don’t really run things. It's past time. I can kill every agent that they send for probably 2 weeks. Maybe longer. One man. If they start to realize that, they will stop the bullshit tyranny.”
He added later: “Civil war is anything but civil.”
Deacon, the FBI agent learned, responded that things were “messy.”
Robertson lamented that it was “no longer my country but theirs.”
Deacon told him: “Not true! Unless you give up….be smart, pick battles, plan logistics, very carefully recruit and hope it's not going to come down to it.”
The retired police chief added: “Global citizen of the new order will have lulled the masses to a medieval fiefdom of global proportions that is inescapable except by death….hopefully. We need a place to go….remote, defensible, water, very rugged terrain. We will ultimately lose but will have made the price that’s paid for their victory so great that….to be honest, no one will dare to step up, our national, international, taking many as we go.”
In his letter to Judge Cooper seeking leniency and explaining a series of irate social media posts he made online before Jan. 6, Robertson said he wasn’t “providing excuses for any of my behavior or actions” but wanted to inform the court of the hard times he had experienced. And the radicalization that followed.
His wife took a job out of state before Jan. 6, and he was lonely, he said.
An ill friend he cared for was an avid Trump supporter, and as such, when they were together, he would consume large amounts of pro-Trump “anti-Biden media.”
“The cumulative stress of all this caused me to start drinking more and far harder alcohol than I have ever,” he said.
It was a combination of stress, alcohol abuse, and his “submersion in a deep ‘rabbit hole’ of election conspiracy theory,” Robertson wrote on July 28.
He did not come to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 with “malice in my heart,” he added.
“I’ve never been a huge Trump supporter and, in fact, totally agreed with [Vice President] Pence that he had no constitutional authority to delay the vote tally,” Robertson wrote.
Trump’s pushing of the theory that Pence had the authority to overturn the election results in the run-up to Jan. 6 was at the core of the insurrection and drove the former president’s bid to advance fake electors.
But according to the FBI, Robertson’s wife didn’t leave his side until after Jan. 6, when she went to work in New York. Robertson, meanwhile, was having an affair.
Robertson Letter to the Court by Daily Kos on Scribd
Robertson was accompanied to Washington by fellow off-duty officer Jacob Fracker on Jan. 6. Unlike Robertson, Fracker entered a guilty plea just ahead of trial.
Fracker told jurors that Robertson breached barricades together and believed that if they caused enough of a ruckus, Congress would be forced to stop the joint session, but there was no “verbal agreement” reached. There was no need to spell it out, the mob knew what they had come for, Fracker said.
His testimony and cooperation with the Justice Department earned him a recommendation from prosecutors that he receive no prison sentence but instead serve six months of probation along with a period of home detention or confinement. Fracker pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy to obstruct the election.
Robertson’s seven-year and three-month sentence is just under the eight-year recommendation from prosecutors. Robertson’s sentencing also aligns very closely with the sentence handed down to Guy Reffitt, a member of the extremist militia known as the Three Percenters and the very first person to stand trial for crimes connected to the insurrection. Reffitt received 87 months, or just over seven years, too.