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‘Jan. 6 choir’ member sentenced to 7 years in Capitol attack

A man who joined a nightly performance of the national anthem inside the D.C. jail that has been promoted by former president Donald Trump and his allies was sentenced to seven years in prison for assaulting police and obstructing Congress on Jan. 6.

Shane Jenkins, 46, acknowledged in D.C. federal court that he had an “extensive” criminal history and apologized “for all the pain and suffering I’ve caused.” But, he added: “I love this country. I’m not some crazed maniac.”

Using a tomahawk he brought with him from Texas, Jenkins was the first to smash a window on the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol, and was caught on video shouting: “We paid for it, it’s our f—ing building.” That breach gave rioters access to senators’ offices, which were trashed and ransacked.

Those who went inside carried out broken furniture that Jenkins and others used to attack police guarding a tunnel. After a brief break to recover from being repeatedly hit with pepper spray, Jenkins returned to the tunnel and threw a wooden desk drawer, a flagpole, a metal walking stick, a broken wooden pole and other objects at the police line. Jenkins was convicted at trial on eight felony charges.

“This was not an Ikea desk,” U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta said in court in D.C. “This was solid wooden furniture” that could have caused serious damage had it hit a police officer in the head. But he said Jenkins deserved a lower sentence than rioters who injured officers in direct attacks.

Defense attorney Dennis Boyle said in court that Jenkins was misled by “perhaps the greatest con man of all time.”

Jenkins, a father of five, spoke at length in court about his difficult past, starting with his adoption by an abusive father. “I felt like a throwaway, a piece of trash,” Jenkins said. He first went to juvenile detention as a young teen; his mother married another abusive man while he was incarcerated.

When Jenkins was 20, his stepfather menaced his mother with a gun, and Jenkins killed the man in a shootout. A grand jury did not indict him, but he began abusing and selling drugs and was in and out of prison for the next two decades, with multiple convictions for assault. While in prison in 2016, he said, he found Christianity with the help of former president Richard M. Nixon’s “hatchet man” Chuck Colson. Jenkins said he has since gotten clean and dedicated himself to outreach for at-risk youths.

“I was not a good ambassador for Christ or a good leader that day,” Jenkins told the court.

Mehta said it was hard to square Jenkins’s professed Christian values or his claims of regret with the fact that he raised at least $118,888 on a conservative crowdfunding website where he calls himself a “political prisoner” and created his own line of riot-themed backpacks and clothing.

“It continues to fuel the lie that somehow an election was stolen, that people who are being charged because of their actions, not their beliefs, are victims,” Mehta said. “It’s hard to know what is in a man’s heart; what I know is what you’ve said, what you’ve done.” Three days after Christmas in 2020, he noted, Jenkins was talking about preparing for violence in Washington.

Jenkins is featured in a video of Jan. 6 defendants in the D.C. jail singing the anthem that was circulated by Trump allies. Trump recorded a version of that performance where he sings along and played it at his first 2024 campaign rally. Boyle said Jenkins was not part of that performance. But Jenkins expressed ongoing enthusiasm for Trump in a recent interview from the jail, saying that if the former president was incarcerated he should be brought to the “Patriot Pod.”

“We would have a good time, and it would be awesome to get to meet Donald Trump,” he said.

Boyle compared Jenkins to a fraud victim who still believes in the scam.

“There are politicians out there who fan the flames,” Boyle said. “It’s a reinforcing mechanism.”

Boyle said another event like Jan. 6 was unlikely to occur, but Assistant U.S. Attorney David Perri suggested that was naive.

“What if his preferred candidate is convicted of something?” Perri asked. “As an American citizen, I don’t want to take that chance.” Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of over 19 years.

According to the Justice Department, Jenkins also joined in a mob attack in the D.C. jail in July against Taylor Taranto, a fellow Jan. 6 defendant who was arrested the month prior with weapons near former president Barack Obama’s house. According to the court record, Taranto had insulted Ashli Babbitt, who was killed by a Capitol Police officer during the riot while trying to reach the House floor, and her mother.

Boyle said Jenkins tried to prevent that situation and did not take part in the assault in the jail. Prosecutors and a probation officer said in court that they were not able to get more details from the D.C. Department of Corrections; the agency did not respond to a request for comment.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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