CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A federal judge sentenced a North Carolina man to 60 days in jail and 36 months of probation for his involvement in the deadly U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, going over the recommended jail time.
In a two-and-a-half-hour-long sentencing hearing, James Little, of Claremont, North Carolina, listened to his defense attorney, public defender Peter Adolf, and U.S. Assistant District Attorney Michael James, argue over how much jail time he would receive for his charge: Parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
Michael James opened the hearing with his recommendation to Judge Royce C. Lamberth to sentence Little to one month in jail, followed by 36 months of probation.
James spent a few minutes saying Little's conduct at the capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, warranted such a sentence. Little's social media posts before the attack on the capitol were also included in James' testimony, saying Little warned of a "civil war" if the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule in favor of then-President Donald Trump winning the 2020 election.
After James spoke, Adolf took over the hearing to speak on behalf of his client and requested a lesser sentence than what James was arguing for.
Adolf mentioned how tough of a case this was for him professionally, saying that "trying to keep up with cases like these is like drinking from a fire hose."
Adolf questioned the federal government's motive for its sentencing recommendation for Little, arguing others with more serious charges were given lighter sentences than Little.
"We need to have similar defendants with similar records" to be treated similarly, Adolf said.
In his hour-long speech to the court, Adolf downplayed his client's behavior inside the US Capitol on Jan. 6, saying Little was lost in the capitol that day.
"When you look at what [Little] did, he walked through open doors," Adolf recounted. "He didn't know what was going on before he went through those doors."
Judge Lamberth interrupted Adolf at that point, disputing Adolf's characterization of Little's conduct.
"He walked through open doors that were opened because the police were overwhelmed," Lamberth said. "Don't play him as some innocent guy."
Adolf then mentioned WCNC's previous reporting on a letter submitted to Judge Lamberth regarding Little's character and behavior after the Jan. 6 riot.
Adolf implied he didn't think a local TV station should be broadcasting the news of the letter, and that he'd never seen a letter like that in all his career.
Lamberth defended the submission of the character letter to the public record, arguing he has been transparent with other letters in other cases.
Little's attorney plays FBI interrogation recording
After speaking for more than 30 minutes, Adolf told played a 20-minute-long recording of two FBI agents' visit with Little in January 2021.
On the recording, Little can be heard first denying the agents' request to interview him at his mother's home, saying he wants his attorney present. The agents ask if Little has an attorney, to which Little says he does not.
After a short time, Little invites the agents inside the home and outlines his connection to the Jan. 6 attack. He mentions he doesn't trust the FBI because he knows "what happened with the FBI and General Flynn."
Little told the FBI agents he considers himself "a Christian conservative patriot" and that there is a "mountain of evidence that the election was stolen."
As to how he wound up in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, Little said he "felt called by God to go to Washington" and said if he had not received his stimulus check, he could not have afforded to travel there.
Little reiterated several times during the interrogation he had no intention of going into the capitol and "just got caught up in the moment and emotion."
Several times, Little referred to the riot as a "peaceful protest of Trumpers" and maintained he saw no violence while he was on the grounds.
Little, like his defense attorney, downplayed his behavior and role during the deadly attack on the capitol. He told the FBI agents he was "just following people" and didn't know where he was going.
"It was an emotional, spiritual, patriotic experience for us Trumpers," Little said during his interview with agents.
At one point during the capitol attack, Little told agents he received a call from Catawba County EMS, saying his elderly mother had fallen. He said he considered leaving to go home then, but the EMS personnel on the other line said his mother would be OK, so Little continued moving forward with the crowd in Washington.
At the end of the recorded interview, Little told the agents all he "basically did was trespass" and he had "no nefarious moves." Little said he wishes he would have went home when the call came about his mother.
James Little speaks during the sentencing hearing
Although it was brief, Little told the judge he gives back to his community by donating blood and volunteering at a local soup kitchen and nursing home.
Judge Lamberth sentences James Little
After hearing from both attorneys, hearing to the recorded FBI interrogation, and listening to James Little himself, Judge Lamberth said he believed some term of imprisonment was warranted because of Little's behavior and statements he made during the FBI interview.
Going against the federal government's one-month jail sentence recommendation, Lamberth sentenced Little to serve 60 days in jail, followed by 36 months of probation.
Little will also pay a $500 fine to the federal government for property damage during the insurrection.
Little will serve his jail time in Catawba County at a date yet to be set.
Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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