After defendant’s TV interview, judge sentences Glens Falls man to 90 days jail – twice prosecution’s request

The man identified as James Bonet as included in Bonet's charging paperwork (inset) The scene Jan. 6 (background) Credit: FBI (Insert) AP (Background)

The man identified as James Bonet as included in Bonet's charging paperwork (inset) The scene Jan. 6 (background) Credit: FBI (Insert) AP (Background)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal judge this week sentenced Glens Falls Capitol insurrection defendant James Bonet to serve 90 days in jail for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, records show.

The sentence was twice the 45 days prosecutors had sought for Bonet and came after Bonet gave an interview to television station WTEN in January where he downplayed the riot as a “peaceful protest,” all after his guilty plea in the riot case, prosecutors noted in a pre-sentence memorandum.

The January interview appeared to weigh heavily in the judge’s sentence, according to Washington-area TV station WUSA, whose reporter covered Wednesday’s sentencing.

In his October plea, Bonet, 30, formally admitted to entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, a misdemeanor.

He faced up to a year in jail, though guidelines suggested a term of between no jail time and six months, officials have said.

Federal prosecutors – before learning of Bonet’s interview with WTEN – asked a judge to impose a 45-day jail sentence for Bonet.

They called it appropriate and warranted for Bonet smoking what appeared to be marijuana in a senator’s private office, broadcasting it on social media, and due to his social media postings showing his unlawful presence in the Capitol and for Bonet bypassing numerous red flags that told him to turn back. He worked in Saratoga Springs at the time.

His defense is seeking no jail time, and instead probation, according to its own filing.

Prosecutors, however, later learned of the interview and brought it to the judge’s attention in a follow-up submission. In the interview, Bonet called what happened “peaceful” and that he didn’t break in, “the cops let me in.”

“Bonet’s claim that he has learned from his ‘mistake’ is central to his request for probationary sentence,” prosecutors wrote ahead of the sentencing. “His television statements, however, emphasize the need for a sentence of incarceration. He minimized. He offered excuses. His statements undermine his acceptance of responsibility, suggesting that he sees his role in the riot as a legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights. It is hard to believe that Bonet has really changed and learned if he reflexively justifies his criminal conduct.” 

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan agreed with prosecutors, according to WUSA reporter Jordan Fischer, saying it was clear Bonet hadn’t accepted responsibility and that probation would “send the wrong message.”

Bonet formally admitted that he entered the Capitol at about 3:09 p.m. Jan. 6 through the Senate wing doors while saying “we’re taking it back, we’re taking it back, we made it in the building,” a prosecutor read at his plea hearing.

He then went to the offices of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and smoked a marijuana joint, the prosecutor recounted. Then, approximately 17 minutes later, he left the Capitol building.

In the prosecution’s filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Loeb cited Bonet’s conduct alongside the many others charged that day, noting the numbers were what allowed them to overwhelm law enforcement, breach the Capitol and disrupt the proceedings.

Bonet defense attorney Lisa A. Peebles argued Bonet had no intention of storming the Capitol. He no longer uses marijuana and is now attending college, she wrote. He’d also “learned a valuable lesson,” she wrote ahead of sentencing.

While the judge sentenced Bonet to the jail term, the judge allowed Bonet to remain free to surrender and start serving his sentence June 1.

Bonet is among more than 700 people who have been arrested in the attack and 350 others are still being sought by the FBI, including 250 of whom are accused of assaulting police officers. Brandon Fellows, 27, of Schenectady, is also among those charged. His case remains pending.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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