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Time to 'start repaying the damage' from Jan. 6, judge tells Capitol rioter

The FBI arrested former FreedomWorks grassroots organizer Brandon Prenzlin last year. He pleaded guilty in March to one misdemeanor count of parading.

WASHINGTON — A former conservative organizer was sentenced Monday to 10 months of probation and a $2,500 fine for entering the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6.

Brandon Prenzlin, formerly of Arlington, Virginia, appeared before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden on Monday for sentencing on one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. Prenzlin, a former grassroots organizer with the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, was arrested last September and pleaded guilty to the Class “B” misdemeanor charge in March.

In charging documents, the FBI said a confidential human source identified Prenzlin in a livestream recorded inside the Capitol on January 6. Investigators then matched CCTV images and body-worn camera footage with publicly available images from Prenzlin’s social media accounts, including a March 11 video on his Twitter account in which he identifies himself as a grassroots organizer for FreedomWorks and says he is delivering signatures to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) urging him to defend the filibuster.

The FBI took a number of further steps to confirm Prenzlin’s identity, including sending an agent to conduct surveillance on him entering the security line at Washington Reagan National Airport. Investigators say Prenzlin can be seen in multiple photos at the Capitol, on his social media page and in the surveillance images at Reagan wearing the same blue shoes.

In an interview with FBI agents, Prenzlin initially denied entering the building. He eventually admitted he’d gone inside and that he thought police had “bigger problems to deal with.” According to a transcript of the interview included in the Justice Department’s sentencing memo, Prenzlin also eventually agreed those bigger crimes gave him “cover” to enter the building.

Prosecutors asked McFadden to sentence Prenzlin to 14 days in jail, 36 months of probation and 60 hours of community service. Prenzlin’s attorneys, Christopher Wiest and Christopher Macchiaroli, argued in their own memo that a four-month probationary sentence would be more appropriate.

Wiest and Macchiaroli argued the government was asking for a more severe punishment for Prenzlin because of his political beliefs – characterizing it as “blatant First Amendment retaliation.” They pointed to a number of other misdemeanor cases, including that of Eliel Rosa, who was sentenced by McFadden to 12 months of probation and 100 hours of community service in October on the same charge.

In court Monday, McFadden said he agreed with the defense and DOJ that Prenzlin's actions on Jan. 6 were on the lower end of culpability, but said he was troubled by seven violations of Prenzlin's release conditions requiring him to check-in with probation officer. He also pressed Prenzlin — who told the judge in a brief statement that he'd previously organized protests before which had been nothing like Jan. 6 — about why he would enter the Capitol at all, given his political experience. McFadden said Prenzlin never provided a satisfactory answer to that question.

Ultimately, McFadden said Prenzlin's conduct didn't warrant jail time. He instead sentenced him to 10 months of probation, a $2,500 fine, $500 in restitution and 120 hours of community service.

"The most important thing you can do now is to start repaying the damage that you and others caused," McFadden said.

Supervision of Prenzlin's case will be transferred to the Northern District of Ohio, where he returned to live following his arrest last year.

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.

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