Politics

Stephen Ayres, Jan. 6 participant who testified before House panel, sentenced to 2 years probation

Washington — Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man who was part of the mob that entered the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, and later appeared before the House select committee probing the attack, was sentenced to probation by a federal judge Thursday and will avoid incarceration.

U.S. District Judge John Bates ordered Ayres to serve 24 months probation, complete 100 hours of community service and pay $500 in restitution, telling federal prosecutors and Ayres he believed the sentence is sufficient “to result in some deterrence and an appropriate degree of deterrence.”

“He was in the Capitol only about 10 minutes … never going into any of the more sensitive areas of the Capitol,” Bates said during the sentencing hearing. “He has fully cooperated with law enforcement, and I have to say that from my assessment, he has shown genuine remorse and regret, and that includes testifying before the January 6 committee.”

Bates also said Ayres, unlike others charged for their conduct on Jan. 6, played no role in causing the breach of the Capitol and did not destroy evidence.

“The events of January 6, it was a travesty in American history, a shocking attack on our democratic values and institutions and on the physical institution of the United States Capitol,” the judge said. “All who participated in that insurrection, I think it can be called, must be held responsible.”

Bates called the Capitol assault “a threat to one of the vital tenets of our cherished form of government, and that is the peaceful transfer of power from one presidential administration to another” and a “blight on the country.”

Ayres was arrested in late January 2021 and charged with four counts related to his participation in the Jan. 6 attack. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, a misdemeanor. 

Ayres admitted to traveling from his home in Ohio to Washington, D.C., to protest Congress’ certification of the Electoral College votes and participated in the rally outside the White House before marching with other supporters of former President Donald Trump to the Capitol.

According to court filings, he entered the Capitol just before 3 p.m., and remained inside the building for roughly 10 minutes, joining others “chanting and parading.” He also made posts on his Facebook account in the days before the insurrection, including one in which he accused Chief Justice John Roberts, President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of committing treason against Trump.

Federal prosecutors asked the court to impose a sentence of 60 days in prison for Ayres, followed by one year of supervised release, $500 in restitution and 60 hours of community service. 

“The government simply cannot condone that type of behavior, your honor,” Nihar Mohanty, an assistant U.S. attorney, told Bates of Ayres’ actions. Still, he noted that Ayres “behaved less culpably” than other defendants found to have assaulted police officers or destroyed property.

Both Ayres and his wife offered brief remarks before Bates handed down his sentence. Ayres, who appeared to be crying as he spoke, apologized to the court and the American people, saying he got “caught up” in posts he was seeing on social media.

“I pray every day for the officers that are struggling, with families that lost their loved ones,” he said. “I just hope one day I can wake up and not have to live with it every day, because I do every day.”

Ayres testified in July before lawmakers investigating the events surrounding Jan. 6 and the assault itself and told the House select committee that he and others who breached the Capitol were following what Trump said. He said he believed Trump’s baseless claims the 2020 election was stolen and told investigators he likely would not have traveled to Washington for the rally on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t pushed those allegations.

Gillian Morley contributed to this report.

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