A Largo man who admitted he threw a wood plank and sprayed and hurled a fire extinguisher at police officers during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol now realizes the wrongfulness of his actions, according to a letter he wrote to a federal judge.
Robert Scott Palmer, who faces sentencing Friday, asked for mercy from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, apologizing in a lengthy handwritten note for his role in the attack that sought to subvert the results of the 2020 election.
The note, which accompanied a sentencing memo filed by Palmer’s defense lawyer, states that he now understands that he and others were lied to and manipulated by those in power.
“They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny,” Palmer wrote. “Little did I realize that they were the tyrannical ones, desperate to hold onto power at any cost, even by creating the chaos they knew would happen with such rhetoric.”
Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence Palmer to a little more than five years in prison. It is the longest penalty sought so far against those who have pleaded guilty to crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot.
The letter’s tone is in contrast to an online post prosecutors say Palmer dictated from jail weeks earlier to a friend. The post appeared in an online fundraising page and sought donations to help with Palmer’s legal fees. It claimed he went “on the defense” against police because they shot him with rubber bullets.
The defense sentencing memo states that Palmer later realized the “idiocy” of the post, attributing it to the stress of his incarceration. It was removed and the donations refunded.
His attorney, Bjorn Brunvand, wrote that Palmer believed he was acting in the country’s best interests when he went to the Capitol, but that he now realizes he hurt the nation.
“As distorted as his mindset was at that time, his heart was set on doing what he believed was right,” Brunvand wrote. “He knows now that he was wrong. He also accepts that the election was legitimate and that he had no right to attempt to interfere with the governance of our nation. He, likewise, accepts that he will be going to prison for his actions.”
The attorney asked for a sentence less than the five years prosecutors seek.
Palmer, 54, pleaded guilty in October to assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers using a dangerous weapon. A plea agreement states that he left his home and flew to Washington, D.C., to attend a rally in support of former President Donald Trump. After the rally, he moved with other rioters to the Capitol, where he was seen about 4 p.m. on the Upper West Terrace, leaning over a railing and holding a sign that read “Biden is a pedophile.”
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Palmer moved toward a tunnel entrance on the Lower West Terrace as rioters there began to clash with police. He picked up a wood plank and threw it at officers “like a spear,” prosecutors wrote.
After another rioter sprayed a fire extinguisher at officers, Palmer picked up the object and continued to spray. When the canister was empty, he threw the extinguisher at the officers. It hit one of their riot shields before dropping to the ground.
Palmer then looked around for other objects, prosecutors said. He found a piece of scaffolding wrapped in canvas, which he pushed toward officers’ legs. He then retrieved the same fire extinguisher he’d thrown minutes before and tossed it toward police a second time. He found an orange traffic barrier and tossed it, too.
He eventually retreated from the tunnel, apparently in response to pepper spray, but returned to the Upper West Terrace minutes later and continued to confront officers who were trying to clear the crowd. Screaming obscenities, Palmer tossed “a stick or pole, approximately 4-to-5-feet long” as officers told him to drop it, prosecutors wrote. It was then that they fired a 40 mm less-lethal projectile, hitting Palmer in his abdomen.
In a video interview shortly thereafter, Palmer claimed he was a victim. He also expressed his hope that the military could be “called in” and Trump could remain in office.
Palmer was identified in the weeks after the riot when pictures of him circulated online. Sleuths noted his “Florida for Trump” hat and a jacket patterned after the American flag. He was thus given the social media moniker “FloridaFlagJacket.”
Palmer is one of close to 700 people who have been accused of crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot, in which supporters of former President Trump sought to disrupt congressional certification of his election loss to President Joe Biden.
Nearly a year later, Florida has the largest number of people accused, with 75 arrested so far.