A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Robert Packer, the January 6 rioter seen in photos wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, to 75 days in prison.
Packer previously pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of protesting inside the United States Capitol building.
The black hoodie Packer donned during the riot, prosecutors said, showed “Camp Auschwitz” and “Work Means Freedom” with a skull image on the front and “STAFF” written on the back. Underneath his sweatshirt he wore another Nazi-inspired t-shirt, they said.
The prosecution argued that although Packer did not post on social media, he broadcast his beliefs on his clothing.
The defense countered that if Packer had short hair, no beard, and wore a different shirt, he might be perceived differently.
When Judge Carl Nichols asked why Packer was wearing the shirt, the defense said he “couldn’t explain” why he was wearing it, but it was a “freedom of speech” issue.
“I just don’t think it’s appropriate to make him serve more time because he’s wearing this shirt, because he’s allowed to wear it,” his attorney said.
Packer’s attorney further claimed that Packer took offense to being called a white supremacist, as he “doesn’t see himself that way at all”.
In making his decision on sentencing, Nichols said “although he was not wearing a placard, he was wearing a distinctive and incredibly offensive shirt”.
The judge said he could infer that Packer was wearing the shirt for a reason, although he didn’t know the reason because Packer didn’t tell the court.
While Packer was charged with a misdemeanor, the prosecution requested 75 days incarceration, followed by three years probation and 60 hours of community service.
The prosecution noted that Packer’s actions should be considered in the context of the January 6 violence. Although he himself did not perpetrate any acts of violence, they said, the mob would not have been able to overwhelm police, violate the Capitol and disrupt proceedings without his actions, alongside others who have done the same.
The judge said Packer’s presence, while not inherently violent, “prevents the police from dealing with people who are.”
Prosecutors added that the conviction should deter crime in general, “the most compelling reason to impose a sentence of incarceration.” Because the January 6 rioters directly interfered with democracy, they said, “the seriousness of these offenses demands deterrence.”
They said they were justified in seeking jail time because Packer ignored police barricades, ignored officers telling rioters to stop, watched assaults on officers and Capitol property without leaving them. nor try to stop them, entered the Speaker Hall and Statuary Hall, and did not express remorse for his actions.
“He was walking around, looking at me,” replied the defense. “He’s as close to a bystander as you can get in this case.”
“He shouldn’t have stayed there as long as he did; the question is whether he should go to jail for that,” his lawyer said.
Prosecutors added that Packer was a “25-year-old repeat offender with 21 convictions for drunk driving, but also for theft, drug possession and counterfeiting.” He was incarcerated for several prior offences, they said.
The defense said his case did not stem from an “evil spirit” but from a “disease” of alcoholism.
Packer made no comments in court during his sentencing.