WASHINGTON — A federal judge sentenced a New York man to twice the government’s recommended sentence on Wednesday, saying he’d shown no remorse for and had even downplayed the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building.
James Bonet, 30, pleaded guilty in October to one misdemeanor charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building. As part of the plea deal, the government agreed to drop a much more serious felony charge of obstructing the joint session of Congress that could have earned Bonet up to 20 years in prison.
He appeared before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Wednesday for sentencing. The Justice Department asked Sullivan to give Bonet 45 days behind bars, saying a probationary sentence like the one his lawyer was asking for would be inappropriate. Assistant U.S. attorney Alexis Loeb told Sullivan photos of Bonet smoking a joint in Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office shouldn’t be viewed as a juvenile act.
“It was more than callousness,” Loeb said. “It was a show of power. It was saying, ‘We’ve taken control. We can come into the Capitol and do whatever we want.’”
In her sentencing memo, Bonet’s attorney, Lisa Peebles, said her client had wound up at the Capitol following a long period of skepticism that began with questions about the food pyramid. On Wednesday, Peebles focused on the other reason she said Bonet was there: former President Donald Trump.
Peebles told Sullivan Bonet had gone to D.C. to hear Trump speak – and had heard the former president say his supporters needed to, “Fight like hell.” She then proceeded to read an extended portion of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” speech, only stopping when Sullivan interjected.
“His defense is saying, ‘I marched on the Capitol because my former president made me do this?’ Is that what you’re saying?” Sullivan asked.
Peebles said no, Bonet would never blame Trump for Jan. 6.
“Then why are you arguing that on his behalf?” Sullivan asked.
Peebles told Sullivan her client’s arrest had prompted a “transformation” in him. Bonet had, she said, stopped smoking marijuana and taken up jiujitsu. He had also gone back to school. Bonet himself spoke briefly, saying he’d set a bad example for his nieces and nephews and that he did not, despite earlier comments, think “cops are pieces of s*** or anything.”
Sullivan, however, said an interview Bonet did in January with ABC-affiliate WTEN in New York convinced him that Bonet was not as remorseful as he claimed. In the interview, three months after he’d pleaded guilty in the case, Bonet called Jan. 6 his “peaceful protest” and said officers had let him into the building.
“At 30 years of age, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses!” Sullivan said.
Sullivan sentenced Bonet to 90 days in jail – twice the DOJ’s request – and a year of supervised release. Bonet will also have to pay $500 in restitution to the Architect of the Capitol and complete 200 hours of community service.
We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.