A Florida man who attacked law enforcement officers on Jan. 6 while wearing a distinctive American flag sweatshirt emblazoned with the name of former President Donald Trump was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison, the longest sentence handed out in connection with the Capitol riot so far.
Robert Scott Palmer, who was nicknamed #FloridaFlagJacket by online sleuths investigating the Capitol attack, was arrested by the FBI just 12 days after he was named in a HuffPost story in March. Hours after attacking cops with a fire extinguisher, Palmer proceeded to give his name and his hometown to a livestreamer at the Capitol.
When HuffPost called Palmer after being tipped off by an online sleuths, the Florida man said the Biden administration was trying to “vilify the patriots” who took part in the Capitol attack. He hung up when asked about the fire extinguisher, took down his Facebook page, hired a lawyer, and turned himself in shortly thereafter. He pleaded guilty in October, and has been locked up in D.C. jail since that time.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who had previously expressed concern that Capitol rioters weren’t serving long enough sentences for their conduct, sentenced Palmer on Friday. In a letter to Chutkan ahead of his sentencing, Palmer claimed that he recognized that “Trump supporters were lied to” by former President Trump and those acting on his behalf.
“They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny,” Palmer wrote. “Little did I realize that they were the tyrannical ones desperate to hold on to power at any cost even by creating the chaos they knew would happen with such rhetoric.”
In court on Friday, Palmer told Chutkan he was “really, really ashamed of what I did” and that he would “never, ever, ever” go to a political rally again. While behind bars, he said, he used an educational electronic pad to watch a clip of himself on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show that showed him attacking cops, and told Chutkan he “was horrified” by the video.
Chutkan said that even before he attacked officers, Palmer — who was atop the inauguration platform — had an “excellent view” of the rioters attacking overwhelmed law enforcement with a variety of weapons, and choose to join the violent battle. Chutkan told Palmer to turn around and look at the U.S. Marshals standing at the back of the courtroom.
“U.S. Marshals ran from this courthouse to the Capitol. They put themselves in danger to protect the occupants of that Capitol,” she said. “Everybody else is running away, trying to get away from the violence, they run towards it … They’re the patriots, and some of them did not know whether they’re going to see their children that night.“
Chutkan called Jan. 6 “unprecedented” and “a violent attempt to stop the peaceful transition of power,” since its goal was to stop a duly elected president from taking office.
“The men and women who kept democracy functioning that day and saved lives, they deserved the thanks of this nation,” Chutkan said. They don’t deserved to be attacked, she added.
“The actions you engaged in cannot happen again,” Chutkan said. “It has to be made clear that trying to violently overthrow the government, trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, and assaulting law enforcement officers in that effort is going to be met with absolutely certain punishment: Not staying at home, not watching Netflix, not doing what you were doing before.”
A prison term, she said, “is the consequence of those actions.”
Federal prosecutors had requested that Palmer serve more than five years in federal prison, which is the longest sentence they’ve yet requested in connection with the Capitol attack. They cited his quote to HuffPost, saying Palmer had told a reporter, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
One of the online sleuths who helped identify Palmer and tipped off HuffPost is a woman named “Amy” who started looking for participants in the Jan. 6 attack when she was home sick with COVID-19 last January.
“The more that I watched [from the insurrection] the more that I felt like I had lost control over what this country was supposed to be,” she told HuffPost. “Spending that time searching was a way to regain control of the situation for me.”
Nearly a year after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, the hunt by the online “Sedition Hunters” community continues. In court documents, the FBI has highlighted the role of online sleuths, who will have played a role in hundreds of Jan. 6 cases when all is said and done.
While more than 700 defendants have been charged so far, the total number of potential defendants who engaged in chargeable conduct ― meaning they either unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol or engaged in violence outside ― is more than 2,500. This week, the FBI’s Capitol Violence website featured more than 350 individuals accused of violent conduct who haven’t yet been arrested.