BOISE, Idaho — A Boise woman who participated in the January 6, 2021, siege at the U.S. Capitol will serve two months in jail and three years probation as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Senior Judge Royce Lambert of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday sentenced Pamela Hemphill for one misdemeanor count of demonstrating, parading or picketing in the U.S. Capitol Building. Three other counts were dropped under the plea agreement. In addition to jail time and probation, the judge ordered Hemphill to pay $500 restitution.
In Tuesday morning's sentencing hearing, the prosecutor said certain aspects of Hemphill's conduct at the Capitol put her case in a different category. Hemphill "repeatedly turned to police for help while simultaneously undermining their efforts" and bragged about the August 2020 incident in which a group of protestors broke a glass door at the Idaho State Capitol on the first day of a special session to address issues related to civil liability and elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On January 6, "many protested without engaging the police," the prosecutor said. "This defendant did not choose to take things in from a distance."
A crowd had gathered outside the Capitol to protest the counting of Electoral College votes for then-President-elect Joe Biden. Hemphill recorded video as many people moved closer to the building.
A video the prosecution played in court contains audio of Hemphill telling a police officer, "I have to get out of that crowd," adding that she had surgery and was a journalist. The officer had her stand in a safer area.
Moments later, Hemphill is heard saying to people in the crowd, "You just come in. That's all you do. This is your house, your house. Haven't you had enough with the (expletive)?"
"These are not the actions of a citizen journalist. These are the actions of a rioter," the prosecutor said.
After the crowd broke through a barrier and police were scrambling to secure the doors to the Capitol's East Rotunda, officers again came to Hemphill's aid, at her pleading.
The prosecutor said the government acknowledges Hemphill's lack of a criminal history and that, after then-President Donald Trump urged the protesters to leave, she tried to prevent other rioters from entering the Capitol. However, the prosecutor said, Hemphill "needlessly drew resources away from police at a time when they were desperately needed."
Hemphill's defense attorney, Nathan Silver, said he was "not going to argue that she was carried away," adding that people can have different motives for participating in a protest, "but when they get together, things can become very combustible."
"She may have provided encouragement that she now regrets," Silver said.
Silver asked the court to take into account Hemphill's age, medical situation, and successful, ongoing recovery from addiction, and sentence her to home confinement.
When it came time to make her statement before hearing her sentence, Hemphill said, "I fully regret everything I said and did at the Capitol," adding that her intentions were to record what was happening, not be a part of it. She compared her actions to cheering on a team at a football game.
"Then the fans started going onto the field. I should have gone home. Instead, I was there filming chaos when I should never have left the stands in the first place," Hemphill said.
Fighting back tears, Hemphill apologized to police.
"They saved my life," she said. "They should be honored forever."
Judge Lambert said it was "tempting" to be "lenient in this kind of situation," but said what happened on January 6, 2021, was more serious and "didn't equate to other demonstrations."
"In some ways when I see those videos, I want to give you the maximum," Lambert said.
Hemphill will be allowed to voluntarily surrender for detention when a facility is designated. Her probation will be under supervision of the District of Idaho.
Five other Idahoans have faced charges related to the events on January 6, 2021.
Here are the statuses of each of their cases:
Josiah Colt of Meridian was the first Idaho resident to be charged in the Capitol coup and the first to plead guilty. The 35-year-old was arrested after bragging online about joining the riot and being photographed dangling from a balcony in the evacuated Senate chamber and later sitting in a chair in the chambers reserved for Pence.
In an interview with KTVB following his arrest, Colt said he had not hurt anyone in the Capitol and was sorry for his role in the siege. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding - a felony - in July 2021, and is due to appear in court for a status conference on December 14.
The second Idahoan to plead guilty in the sprawling criminal case, 68-year-old Duke Wilson of Nampa was sentenced to over four years in prison earlier this year.
Wilson admitted in September to assaulting a federal officer and obstructing an official proceeding in the failed coup. According to the FBI, he hit a police officer with a PVC pipe, punched and pushed others to the ground, and assisted a crowd in wrenching a riot shield away from an officer who was being overwhelmed by the rioters in the lower west terrace tunnel of the U.S. Capitol.
Wilson, who had been recorded on officers' body cameras and other clips uploaded to YouTube, was sentenced in March.
Yvonne St Cyr
Boise resident Yvonne St Cyr live-streamed herself inside the Capitol during the breach, recording the inside of senators' offices and other rioters breaking windows in the building. In an interview with KTVB, she said she had not meant to go inside and did not think anyone would be arrested for storming the Capitol.
She is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, both misdemeanors. St Cyr had been arrested in Boise the month before the coup for refusing to leave the Central District Health building during a protest about coronavirus precautions.
St Cyr was arrested on the federal charges in February 2021, and is due back in court for a status conference on June 16.
Michael Pope of Sandpoint traveled to Washington D.C. ahead of the riot along with his brother, a Kansas state man also facing federal charges, according to law enforcement. Pope was recorded inside the building on news broadcasts and on a Facebook video taken just outside the Capitol in which his brother introduces him by full name while pointing the camera at his face.
Pope turned himself in on Feb. 12, 2021. He is charged with felony counts of obstructing or impeding official proceedings and civil disorder as well as misdemeanor counts of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, impeding passage through the Capitol grounds or buildings, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
He is due to appear in court for a status conference on July 20.
The latest Idahoan to be charged in the riot, Tyler Tew of Idaho Falls was taken into custody after someone who knew him tipped off the FBI. According to law enforcement, Tew posted about the attack on the Capitol on Facebook and was recorded on body cameras and other video entering the Capitol and later being pepper-sprayed by officers near the north door.
Tew is believed to have deleted incriminating messages and photos related to the breach, according to an indictment, but some of the data - including selfies taken inside the building - was successfully recovered. Geolocation data from Tew's cellphone also places him inside the Capitol, officials say.
Tew is charged with misdemeanor counts of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
A status conference in the case is set for June 24.
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