SC man who opened door to Jan. 6 Capitol rioters given 3 years in federal prison

A South Carolina man who opened a door to Jan. 6 Capitol rioters and has since renounced former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of a stolen 2020 election was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison.

George Tenney III, 36, of Anderson County was sentenced by U.S. Judge Thomas Hogan, who said he could not ignore “the facts of this riot.” Tenney’s sentence was one of the stiffest handed down to date of any of the 19 people from South Carolina charged in the U.S. Capitol riots.

Evidence from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, captured on surveillance tapes, showed that Tenney had not only grappled briefly with officers several times but pushed open a door that allowed nearly 50 other rioters to enter the Capitol in the initial stages of the riot.

Once in the building, some of those 50 rioters went on to fight with police, federal prosecutor Alexis Loeb told the judge. She had urged the judge to give Tenney four years in prison.

Toward the end of the 80-minute hearing, held in a courtroom in Washington, Tenney wept as he told the judge that he had been caught up in various postings on social media that enveloped him in “fear and anger” and made him think his children were in danger.

In a letter Tenney wrote to the judge, he went further, saying the former president had spread lies about a stolen election that caused him to do what he did. The letter was made public last week and made national headlines.

As a consequence of following such falsehoods, Tenney told the judge he has lost his job, his career as a high-end cook and was forced to cash out his person and his 401(k) retirement fund.

The judge said he was giving Tenney less than the four years asked by prosecutors because he wanted to avoid an unfair disparity with the probation sentence given to a friend of Tenney’s who had accompanied him that day. That man, who received probation, not only avoided violent actions but appeared to try to stop Tenney from fighting with police, the judge noted. The judge also said he was mindful of Tenney’s remorse.

Hogan called the Jan. 6 riots a “blight on our country that will never go away.”

More than 100 police officers were injured in the riot. One officer suffered a heart attack and four others were so traumatized they died by suicide within several weeks of the riot, the judge noted.

“They (police) were under attack for hours,” the judge said, nothing congressional staffers were “cowering in the offices” while rioters chanted “hang (Vice President) Mike Pence.”

The judge also noted that Tenney’s realization that he had been misled by politicians and social media only came after the FBI tracked him down and indicated he might be prosecuted.

“He allowed rioters to come into the Capitol who would not have otherwise come in,” Hogan said.

Tenney’s attorney, Charles Cochrane, stressed that his client had no criminal record and had asked for home detention.

Hogan showed leniency to Tenney on two counts: Allowing him to report to prison after Christmas and waiving a $2,000 fine because, the judge said, Tenney won’t have any way to earn money in prison.

Approximately 900 people from nearly 50 states have been arrested in the Capitol riots, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Of those, 447 have pleaded guilty to a variety of offenses.

This story will be updated.