UPDATE: Former UK student sentenced to one month in prison for role in Capitol riot

Gracyn Courtright will be allowed to voluntarily surrender

UPDATE POSTED 3:20 P.M. FRIDAY, DEC. 17, 2021

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVQ/AP) – Former University of Kentucky student Gracyn Courtright was sentenced Friday to one-month in prison for her role in the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, according to federal court documents.  She will be allowed to voluntarily surrender.

When she’s released from prison, she’ll be under supervised release for one-year, have to perform 60 hours of community service, and complete mental health treatment, according to court documents.  She also has to pay $500 in restitution to compensate for the damage caused at the Capitol.

The 24-year-old Courtright was caught on camera holding a “Members Only” sign on the second floor of the Capitol building.  She is one of the few rioters charged with theft.  Multiple videos and security camera footage show Courtright near the front of a crowd participating in chants.

In August, Courtright pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for knowingly entering a restricted area.  She waived her right to a jury trial.

The Hurricane, West Virginia native was a senior at UK at the time of the insurrection.  The mathematical economics major withdrew from school following her arrest. She said she plans to ask the university to allow her back in to complete her degree.

She was one of several Capitol rioters sentenced Friday, including one who attacked police officers working to hold back the angry pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 and was sentenced to more than five years behind bars, the most so far for anyone sentenced in the insurrection.

Robert Palmer, 54, of Largo, Florida, wept as he told U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan that he recently watched a video of his actions that day and could not believe what he was seeing.

“Your honor. I’m really really ashamed of what I did,” he said through tears.

Palmer was one of several rioters sentenced on Friday in District of Columbia court for their actions that day, when the angry mob descended to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory following a rally by then-President Donald Trump. Scores of police were beaten and bloodied, five people died and there was about $1.5 million in damage done to the U.S. Capitol. Palmer is the 65th defendant to be sentenced overall. More than 700 people have been charged.

Courtright posted online that “Infamy is just as good as fame” after she climbed through a broken window at Capitol, but she didn’t injure anyone, though, and her sentence reflected that.

But Palmer made his way to the front line during the chaos and started to attack, throwing a wooden plank, spraying a fire extinguisher, then hurling it when it was done. He rooted around for other objects, prosecutors said. He was briefly pepper-sprayed by police before he attacked officers again with a pole. He pleaded guilty to attacking officers.

Palmer said in a handwritten letter to the judge that he felt betrayed by Trump and his allies who fed them conspiracy theories.

“Trump supporters were lied to by those at the time who had great power,” he wrote. “They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny.”

Palmer, who has been held at the D.C. jail among fetid conditions that prompted a review by authorities, said it wasn’t fair that he be punished so severely when the ringleaders aren’t even behind bars.

The judge agreed — to a point. “It is true that the people who extorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action have not been charged,” she said. “That is not the court’s decision. I have my opinions but they are not relevant.”

Before Palmer’s sentencing of 63 months, the longest prison term handed down for a Capitol rioter was 41 months. That was the sentence received by both Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man who wore a horned fur hat, bare chest and face paint inside the Capitol; and New Jersey gym owner Scott Fairlamb, the first person to be sentenced for assaulting a law enforcement officer during the riot.

“It has to be made clear … trying to stop the peaceful transition of power and assaulting law enforcement officers is going to be met with certain punishment,” the judge said. “There are going to be consequences. I’m not making an example of you. I’m sentencing you for the conduct you did.”

Courtright, 23, of Hurricane, West Virginia, sobbed as she told U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper that “if I could take back anything in my life it would be my actions on Jan. 6.”

She posted photos of herself online — like scores of other rioters — reveling in the moment. “Can’t wait to tell my grandkids I was here!” she wrote, and inside the Senate chamber, she was photographed holding a “Members only” sign.

“I will never be the same girl again,” the University of Kentucky student said through tears. “This has changed me completely.”

After the riot, she dug in on social media when she was criticized for her actions, before eventually deleting her accounts. Courtright is among the youngest of those charged in the Capitol riot so far.

Her attorney on Friday argued she had no idea what she was doing and that she wasn’t a political activist — she didn’t even vote in the election she was there to protest. The judge seized on that during his remarks.

“That is your choice obviously, but in my view — if any citizen wants to participate in our democracy, casting a vote is the price of admission,” he said. “Because when you do that, you have to study the issues and the candidates, learn what their policies are, figure out how those policies are affecting your community.”

Participating in a democracy isn’t like going to a University of Kentucky game and “rooting for a team just because of the color of their jerseys,” the judge said. “It’s certainly not resorting to violence when your team doesn’t win the game,” he told Courtright.

Cooper also noted that Courtright made it to the floor of the U.S. Senate at about the exact time that Ashli Babbitt, on the House, side was shot dead.

“Do you know how many people died on Jan. 6, 5. Including Ms. Babbitt?” he asked. “Five.”

“Do you know how many Capitol police officers committed suicide after Jan. 6, harmed from the trauma of that day? Four,“ the judge added. “So was it cool to have been there?”

“No,” she answered emphatically.

Still, the judge said the recommended six months in prison was too high and sentenced her instead to 30 days, one year of supervised release, and 60 hours of community service.

He said he hoped she could pull her life together and that she “should not be judged by the worst mistake you have made in your life.”

UPDATE POSTED 6 P.M. MONDAY, NOV. 15, 2021

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVQ) – Sentencing for former University of Kentucky student Gracyn Dawn Courtright, who has pleaded guilty to her role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, has been continued to give prosecutors and her lawyers time to argue why she should or shouldn’t spend time in jail since prosecutors intend to push for some jail time.

“The government expects to seek active incarceration in this case, and both parties want additional time to present both aggravating and mitigating factors that will be relevant at
sentencing. Based on counsel’s schedule, as well as the defendant’s current release from custody, and her continued compliance, the parties jointly request a continuance of the sentencing hearing for 30-45 days,” prosecutors and defense attorneys said in a motion to the court.

The sentencing is rescheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 17, 2021.

She pleaded guilty Aug. 30 faces from zero to six months in prison for entering and remaining in a restricted grounds.

She must pay $500 as part of her share of the restitution for the $1.495 million in damages caused to the Capitol. She also could be fined up to $9,500, according to the sentencing guidelines outlined in the court documents (courtright plea statement and courtright plea1).

UPDATE POSTED 8:30 P.M. MONDAY, AUG. 30, 2021

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVQ) – A former University of Kentucky student faces from zero to six months in prison after pleading guilty Monday to entering and remaining in a restricted grounds for her participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 incident at the U.S. Capitol.

Gracyn Dawn Courtright will be sentenced at 10 a.m., Nov. 16, 2021, according to federal court records. She also must pay $500 as part of her share of the restitution for the $1.495 million in damages caused to the Capitol. She also could be fined up to $9,500, according to the sentencing guidelines outlined in the court documents (courtright plea statement and courtright plea1).

She remains out of jail on personal recognizance.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION POSTED 8:30 A.M. MONDAY, AUG. 30, 2021

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A former University of Kentucky senior caught on security footage lugging a congressional “members only” sign around the US Capitol pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal misdemeanor for her part in the January 6 riot.

Twenty-three-year-old Gracyn Courtright pleaded guilty to illegally entering and remaining in a restricted building or ground on January 6.
As part of the deal, Courtright agreed to pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol during the riot. Prosecutors have cut similar deals with other defendants who were not violent or destructive inside the building.
Courtright is one of several rioters CNN has previously reported did not vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Prosecutors say she told an associate that “idk what treason is,” and posted a mirror selfie on Instagram captioned, “Infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more known. XOXO.”
Courtright could face up to six months in prison, though it is likely she will be ordered to serve much less, or even no jail time, when she is sentenced in November.
District Judge Christopher Cooper scheduled Courtright to be sentenced at an in-person hearing in DC but said that plan might change since Courtright and her family have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The plea comes as prosecutors have increased the pressure on Capitol riot defendants who bragged about their participation after the fact. Though defendants aren’t required to apologize, federal prosecutors have cited defiant comments from some to argue in court that they should face harsher punishments.
As she prepared to enter her guilty plea during the virtual proceeding on Monday, Courtright started crying.
“I’m just — I’m just shaking. I’m sorry,” she told the judge.
Courtright said that shortly after January 6, she withdrew from the University of Kentucky, where she studied mathematical economics. In December, Courtright will face a board at the school that will decide if she can return to class.
The Justice Department has charged more than 590 people in the massive Capitol riot investigation. So far, 46 have pleaded guilty.

UPDATE POSTED 1 P.M. JULY 20, 2021

WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVQ) – A West Virginia woman who was a student at the University of Kentucky when she was accused of taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021, incursion on the U.S. Capitol had her plea hearing rescheduled Tuesday.

Gracyn Dawn Courtright had been scheduled to plead guilty at 10 a.m. Monday, but a federal court notice posted on the U.S. District Court web site moved the hearing to 10 a.m. Aug. 25, 2021. Judge Christopher Cooper is overseeing the case.

No reason was given for the change.

Courtright will remain free on her own recognizance.

UPDATE POSTED 4 P.M. JUNE 28, 2021

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A plea agreement hearing is set next month for a West Virginia woman accused of taking a “Members Only” sign near the Senate chambers as she accompanied supporters of former President Donald Trump in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The hearing for Gracyn Dawn Courtright of Hurricane, W.Va., is scheduled for July 20 in federal court in Washington, D.C., according to court documents. The notice of the hearing was made last week. Courtright remains free on personal recognizance bond.

Courtright is charged with theft of government property under $1,000 and four counts involving her conduct in a Capitol and restricted building.

Eight people have pleaded guilty in federal court to riot-related offenses. Courtright is one of at least four others who apparently have agreed to plead guilty, according to court records.

Courtright admitted she went in, prompting the witness to express embarrassment, according to the FBI.

Courtright allegedly said, “I’m not embarrassed so you shouldn’t be,” bragged that the event was making “history” and said she thought “it was cool.”

When the witness accused her of treason, Courtright said she did not know what treason was, according to the affidavit. Before Courtright deleted her Instagram account, she wrote, “Infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more known. XOXO.”

According to the affidavit, in two Instagram photos in which she is raising her arms in the air, Courtright wrote, “can’t wait to tell my grandkids I was here!”

The affidavit said photos of a woman seen at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were similar to the physical features of Courtright’s driver’s license and her Instagram account. The FBI said she was wearing a black coat and a hat with a yellow band at the Capitol.

A woman whose clothes and physical features matched those of Courtright was seen on a video near the Senate chamber carrying a “Members Only” sign before a law enforcement officer confiscated it. A newspaper photo also appeared to place Courtright in a crowd that initially clashed with police in the halls of the Capitol, the FBI said.

The affidavit said Courtright at the time of her arrest was a senior at the University of Kentucky. According to the university, she was majoring in mathematical economics.

Update:  Jan. 19, 2021:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A University of Kentucky student charged in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was released on bond with travel restrictions following her first appearance on the charges in federal court on Tuesday, according to the Kentucky Kernel.

The report says Gracyn Courtright, a senior mathematical economics major from West Virginia, was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond with conditions.

Citing the conditional release order on file in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, the newspaper reports Courtright is restricted to the Southern District of West Virginia and the District of Columbia for her court appearances.

Her probation officer can approve travel outside of the restrictions to attend the University of Kentucky, according to the report.

She must also surrender her passport to a probation officer, try to find a job, can’t use alcohol, can’t have a gun and may be required to attend a counseling program, according to the report.

Courtright was appointed a public defender, according to the Kentucky Kernel.

Surveillance camera video shows Courtright carrying a “Members Only” sign from the floor of the U.S. Senate, according to federal prosecutors.

She was charged with theft of property under $1,000, knowingly entering a restricted building, knowingly engaging in disruptive conduct, and violent entry on Capitol grounds, according to federal court records filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Original story below from Jan. 17, 2021:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A University of Kentucky student from West Virginia faces federal charges for her role and participation in the Jan. 6 incidents at the U.S. Capitol (read the charges, caution some of the paperwork contains foul language courtright affidavit  courtright charges).

Gracyn Dawn Courtright is charged with theft of property under $1,000, knowingly entering a restricted building, knowingly engaging in disruptive conduct, and violent entry on Capitol grounds, according to federal court records filed Saturday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Affidavits filed by an FBI agent cite Courtright’s own social media posts, pictures and videos in making the case for the allegations against her.

She deleted her social media — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — shortly after the incidents.

Courtright’s father also confirmed some of the details in a conversation with FBI agents who spoke with him at his home in West Virginia where his daughter was staying, according to the affidavits.

In her posts, Courtright said she never saw any violence and didn’t take part in any herself. She is shown at one point carrying a “Members Only” sign from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

In an exchange with a friend on social media, she said she didn’t know what treason was.

The University of Kentucky would not comment directly on her case but did say the school’s disciplinary rules may apply.

“We don’t discuss individual disciplinary issues. But, in general, we can tell you that the student code of conduct applies both on and off campus. If the university is made aware of a student taking actions in violations of local, state or federal laws, the student code of conduct applies in that context,” the university said in a statement.
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