A former Marine combat veteran who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 avoided jail time and was sentenced to probation Tuesday after testifying against an Army veteran "father figure" who was with him during the riot.
Jacob Fracker, 30, who was also a Virginia National Guard member and policeman, was given one year of probation and 59 days of home confinement after pleading guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reported. He was fired from the Rocky Mount, Virginia, Police Department and separated from the National Guard after his role in the riot became public.
The relatively light punishment comes just days after his companion at the Capitol that day, Thomas Robertson, 49, of Ferrum, Virginia, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for being part of the mob that attempted to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory. Fracker agreed to testify against Robertson, whom he sometimes called "Dad," and federal prosecutors recommended he serve only probation.
The judge asked Fracker, "Do you now realize there's nothing patriotic about interfering ... with the peaceful transfer of power," and Fracker said "Yes, sir," according to tweets by Scott MacFarlane, a CBS News congressional correspondent who was covering the hearing.
The two men, both police officers at the time, were among the hundreds of protesters who stormed the Capitol in early 2021, breaking windows and doors, carrying weapons, beating police officers and vandalizing the building. The mob had been whipped up by former President Donald Trump, who called them to D.C. and gave a speech nearby that day, again lying that the presidential election had been stolen from him.
Then-Vice President Mike Pence narrowly escaped as the mob surged through the building, and a rioter, an Air Force veteran, was shot dead by security as she attempted to break into the House chamber where lawmakers were barricaded. Eventually, the National Guard was deployed and the Capitol was cleared so Congress could complete the election certification that night.
Fracker and Robertson, who had been at Trump's speech, arrived at the Capitol as the violence began to unfold, according to court records. They put on gas masks -- Robertson was carrying a stick that he used like a police baton -- and marched forward, fighting against a line of Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police amid tear gas and chaos.
The two were briefly separated after overwhelming the police, but each made his way into the Senate building after the windows and doors were broken open. Once inside, Fracker was "in a sea of rioters engaged in destructive and violent behavior," prosecutors wrote. Robertson broke into the Senate "while alarms blared around him, the windows around him were busted out, and broken glass and overturned furniture were visible on the floor."
Fracker and Robertson met up in the Capitol chamber called the Crypt and snapped a "selfie" photo in front of a statue. Then, they left and drove home to Rocky Mount.
The crimes had been a long time in the making, according to court records.
In November 2020, right after the election, Robertson began posting on Facebook that the vote was illegitimate and violence was needed to overturn Biden's win in the 2020 election. He believed Trump's lies that the election was "rigged" and posted that he would be part of a "counter insurgency."
Fracker, who had deployed as a Marine to Camp Leatherneck and Helmand, Afghanistan, from 2011 to 2013, looked up to Robertson, who had claimed to be a graduate of the Army Ranger School and to have a Purple Heart.
But prosecutors said those claims about his military record were lies. Robertson had served in the Army, but had embellished his service in his retelling to Fracker.
Robertson made the claims to Fracker, "using the lies to envelope himself in a cloak of credibility and imbue himself with leadership authority, all of which influenced Fracker's friendship with his former mentor, and ultimately Fracker's decision to join the defendant at the Capitol," according to the court records.
Fracker remembered reading Robertson's Facebook posts about a coming armed revolution. Robertson invited him to Trump's rally on Jan. 6 and brought the gas masks, as well as the stick that was later used as a baton.
Attorneys for Fracker, who pleaded guilty and testified at Robertson's trial, said he had accepted responsibility for his actions.
But that his actions on Jan. 6 "were to a great extent the result of the influence of his mentor and father figure, a man he loved, trusted and respected, and whom he believed from what he had been told held the same values and had been through the same set of life-or-death military service experiences as he had," the attorneys wrote in a plea before his sentencing.
Fracker discovered "just recently" that Robertson had lied about his service
"Mr. Fracker was the victim of Mr. Robertson's lies more than anyone else, because he truly lost the life and career that meant so much to him, due largely to Mr. Robertson's urging," the attorneys wrote.
The two veterans' sentences are the latest in a sprawling effort to prosecute those involved in the Capitol riot. More than 860 defendants have been arrested across the country since Jan. 6, according to the Justice Department. About 12% of those defendants have some connection to the military, George Washington University's Program on Extremism estimates.
Some of those veterans were members of extremist groups. Four of the five members of the Proud Boys indicted in June on seditious conspiracy for playing key roles in the violent breach of the Capitol are veterans. Five of the 11 members of the Oath Keepers indicted in January on sedition charges for the Capitol riot are veterans.
The groups allegedly staged coordinated efforts to breach the Capitol and stop the election certification, sometimes employing military tactics.
The Justice Department is also seeking a 30-day prison sentence for a former Marine who allegedly tried to force open a door to the heart of the Capitol. Another former Marine was sentenced earlier this month to two years' probation, 60 hours of community service and $500 in restitution for entering the Senate during the riot.
-- Travis Tritten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.