‘A stain on American history.’ MO couple sentenced in Capitol riot blame Trump, crowd

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A former Missouri Christian school teacher and her husband who said former President Donald Trump and the crowd contributed to the environment that led to the Capitol riot were sentenced Thursday to home detention and two years’ probation.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Zachary Wilson to 45 days of home detention and Kelsey Wilson to 30 days, along with 60 hours of community service. They also must each pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol during the insurrection, which prosecutors say totaled $1.5 million.

“It’s hard to avoid getting on a soap box in these cases, and I’m trying to resist doing that,” Mehta said. “But I don’t think it would be appropriate to at least not let any sentencing pass without reflecting on the magnitude of what occurred on January the sixth and how you all contributed to it.”

Mehta said Jan. 6 was a day in which the country was to transition power peacefully from one president to the next.

“Regrettably, you all made the decision to do something that contributed to a transition of power that ultimately was marred by violence, destruction and death,” he told the Wilsons. “And that’s not something that anybody ought to downplay or suggest was not significant or could be justified by events earlier in the summer. It’s really not justifiable.”

The sentencing for the single misdemeanor charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building on Jan. 6. was held via video conference in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Wilsons had each faced a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The government had recommended 14 days’ incarceration, three years’ probation and $500 restitution.

The Wilsons are the third and fourth Missouri residents to be sentenced of the 18 who have been charged in the Capitol riot cases. They each addressed the judge before he issued their sentences.

“I cannot apologize enough or express remorse that I have for the actions that day,” Zachary Wilson said. “My wife and I went to Washington, D.C., to hear former President Trump and the guest speakers. We had no intention of interfering with the Congressional proceedings. We saw the crowd and got caught up and followed them up to the building.

“I’m incredibly sorry for my part in what has now put a stain on American history.”

Mehta asked him why he thought it was permissible to breach the Capitol that day.

“I was caught up in President Trump telling everybody that this election got stolen and he had kind of everybody enraged,” Zachary Wilson said. “We didn’t even have any idea that we were gonna do a march. We thought we were just there for the speech. And then when he said, ‘Yeah, turn around and march,’ and everybody’s like, ‘Yeah, march.’ And he’d already had everybody so worked up that when we got up there I just reacted wrongly. I really feel stupid, to be honest.”

Zachary Wilson, in red jacket and face mask, is seen at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Zachary Wilson, in red jacket and face mask, is seen at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

A tearful Kelsey Wilson told the judge that her arrest “will undoubtedly be one of the most life-changing things that I will ever go through.”

“I know what I did on January sixth was wrong,” she said. “We got caught up in everything that had been happening over the last year and we got swept up in the crowd. And I’m deeply and truly sorry and embarrassed for my actions that day.”

She said their lives would never be the same.

“I’ve already lost not one but two jobs because of my actions that day and my family is struggling,” she said. “My family is truly sorry for the embarrassment that we brought on our country, and we will definitely pay for this for the rest of our lives.”

Kelsey Wilson had been employed as a first grade teacher by Dayspring Christian School in Springfield for about a month at the time of her arrest last August.

When asked why she went into the Capitol building, she told the judge that “I think a lot of it just had to do with seeing everything over the summer…seeing cities burn and people divided for the last several years and then getting there and getting caught up in the crowd. It was a stupid mistake.”

Mehta told the couple that in many ways, they were “victimized” themselves.

“You were told lies about election fraud, about your country being taken from you,” he said. “They were lies. And regrettably, you believed them. And you acted on that.”

However, he added, “I think you are decent, hard-working Americans who regrettably were caught up in something I think if you could do again, I genuinely believe you would not.” He noted that the couple had overcome difficult pasts and tried to make their lives better for them and their children.

“I think the hardest part of all of this, frankly…is what you all have endured so far and the fact that you are going to have to explain to your kids what happened that day and how their parents got caught up in something that they shouldn’t have,” he said.

Zachary Wilson was initially charged in February 2021 with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building. Kelsey Wilson was charged six months later with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

All the counts were misdemeanors. As part of the plea agreement, the government dropped the other counts against the two and charged them with the single “parading” count.

Prosecutors said the Wilsons illegally entered and roamed through the Capitol, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, where Zachary Wilson took a video. Zachary Wilson then posted pictures and video on Facebook. One post said, “first ones in !!!! First thing we found was Pelosi’s office.” When FBI agents later interviewed the couple, they lied repeatedly about their participation in the riot, prosecutors said.

“A riot cannot occur without rioters, and each rioter’s actions — from the most mundane to the most violent — contributed, directly and indirectly, to the violence and destruction of that day,” the government said in its sentencing memorandum filed with the court.

Prosecutors added that “the trauma experienced by the members of Congress and Speaker Pelosi’s staff is significant. A group of Speaker Pelosi’s staffers barricaded themselves behind a door and hid under a desk for more than 2 hours.”

The government acknowledged that the Wilsons accepted responsibility early by entering into a plea agreement and noted that Kelsey Wilson “made a significant effort to get the FBI videos and pictures taken by Zach Wilson.”

Prosecutors said, however, that their repeated lies to the FBI and Zachary Wilson’s posts on social media underscored the need for a sentence that included some jail time.

The Wilsons asked for 12 months’ probation in their sentencing memorandums filed with the court. They argued that they were not political extremists and had gone to Washington, D.C., solely to show their support for Trump at the “Stop the Steal” rally.

Kelsey Wilson’s attorney, Kira West, wrote in her sentencing memorandum that the couple had rented a car and driven to D.C. with a friend of Kelsey Wilson’s to hear Trump speak, leaving their two children with Kelsey’s mother.

“As the day unfolded, she never planned or envisioned entering the U.S. Capitol,” West said. “That is, not until President Trump invited everyone to march to the Capitol. Mrs. Wilson followed the large crowd there that day with no intention of doing anything.”

The Wilsons were not armed or dressed for combat, their attorneys said, nor did they destroy any property or commit any violence. They were in the Capitol for less than 20 minutes, they said, were respectful while in Pelosi’s office and met no resistance from authorities.

“After seeing the video footage showing protesters beating police officers, spraying gas in their faces, screaming obscenities, and destroying property, it made her cringe,” West said of Kelsey Wilson. “She did not witness any of this at all. She is left with deep regret, fear, shame, and remorse.”

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