WASHINGTON — A former Virginia police officer convicted of six counts for his role in the Capitol riot was sentenced Thursday to more than seven years in prison.
Thomas Robertson, who served until his arrest as an officer with the Rocky Mount Police Department, appeared before U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper on Thursday afternoon. In April, Robertson was the second Capitol riot defendant to go to trial, after Texas Three Percenter Guy Reffitt. A jury ultimately convicted him of all six counts against him:
- Obstruction of an official proceeding
- Civil disorder
- Entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous weapon
- Disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building
- Violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building
- Tampering with a document or proceeding
At trial, prosecutors said Robertson, who also served in the U.S. Army and overseas as a contractor for the military, had worked himself up into a willingness to commit violence after former President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. In one Facebook post they showed jurors, Robertson wrote, “I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. I’m about to become part of one, and a very effective one.”
On Thursday, prosecutors also presented evidence Robertson had a pattern of lying about his military credentials, saying he’d falsely told the court and others he was an Army Ranger, despite never graduating from Ranger school, and that he’d falsely claimed he had received a Purple Heart. The Stolen Valor Act makes it a crime to fraudulently claim to receive certain military decorations, including the Purple Heart, for personal gain. Prosecutors told Cooper they couldn’t comment about whether the Justice Department was investigating Robertson for those claims.
It was Robertson’s post-arrest conduct, however, that drew the most concern from Cooper. At Thursday’s hearing, assistant U.S. attorney Liz Aloi highlighted messages Robertson sent to the former police chief of Boone’s Mill, Virginia, after FBI agents searched his property in March.
“I’m not planning on doing anything crazy, but I am done being civil about it,” Robertson wrote. “If they come here again, many will die. Possibly me, definitely many of them.”
Later in the same message, Robertson said, “I can kill every agent that they send for probably two weeks.”
Robertson was initially granted pretrial release, but Cooper ordered him back into custody last July when Robertson purchased more than 30 firearms while awaiting trial. Federal law makes it a crime to ship or transport firearms or ammunition while under indictment for a crime with a maximum sentence of more than 1 year in prison. Aloi said the matter was still under investigation by the DOJ.
Before handing down his sentence, Cooper told Robertson he didn’t believe he’d accepted responsibility for his actions. And, he said, he didn’t believe he’d sworn off violence.
“I read this stuff and it seems like you really think of partisan politics as war,” Cooper said. “I sincerely believe you would answer a call to duty if something like this were to happen again.”
Cooper ordered Robertson to serve 87 months in prison, tying him with Reffitt, who was sentenced last week, for the longest sentence handed down to date in a Capitol riot case. Robertson will also have to pay $2,000 in restitution for damage to the U.S. Capitol Building, which is the standard amount in Jan. 6 felony cases. He’ll receive credit for the approximately 12 months he’s served in pretrial detention since he was ordered back into custody last summer.
Robertson’s co-defendant Jacob Fracker, who testified against him at trial, was scheduled to be sentenced next week. Fracker pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
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