Florida business owner Robert Palmer cheered the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 before he joined the fray. Screaming obscenities, he hurled a wooden plank and a fire extinguisher at police officers trying to ward off the mob. Nearly a year later, Palmer fought back tears when he faced a federal judge who sentenced him to more than five years in prison. “I’m just so ashamed that I was a part of that,” Palmer told U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan before she gave him the longest prison term for any rioter so far, the Associated Press reports. Judges are hearing tearful expressions of remorse from rioters paying a price for joining the insurrection, as others try to play down the deadly attack. So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes. Fifty-six of the 71 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. Most of them were sentenced to home confinement or jail terms of weeks or months. Rioters who assaulted police officers have been given years behind bars.
The District of Columbia federal court is overloaded with Jan. 6 cases. More than 700 people have been charged so far and the FBI is still looking for more. The rioters’ refrains to the judges are often the same: They were caught up in the moment or just following the crowd into the Capitol. They didn’t see any violence or vandalism. They thought police were letting them enter the building. They insist they went there to protest peacefully. Their excuses often implode in the face of overwhelming evidence. Thousands of hours of videos from surveillance cameras, mobile phones and police body cameras captured them reveling in the mayhem. Many boasted about their crimes on social media in the days after the deadly attack.