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Largo Capitol rioter sentenced to more than 5 years, toughest sentence yet

Robert Palmer, 54, 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.
An image included in a government sentencing memo shows Robert Scott Palmer as he retreats from a tunnel outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as rioters clashed with police.
An image included in a government sentencing memo shows Robert Scott Palmer as he retreats from a tunnel outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as rioters clashed with police. [ U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ]
Published Dec. 17, 2021|Updated Dec. 17, 2021

A Largo man who confessed to throwing a wood plank and spraying and hurling a fire extinguisher at police officers during the U.S. Capitol riot Jan. 6 was sentenced to a little over 5 years in federal prison Friday, the longest yet for anyone sentenced for the events of that day.

In October, Robert Scott Palmer pleaded guilty to one count of assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers using a dangerous weapon. In addition to 63 months in prison, he was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution and also faces 36 months of supervised release after his prison sentence.

United States District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said she wasn’t punishing Palmer for his political beliefs, but rather the actions he decided to take following the 2020 presidential election. She said that while others also may have disliked the results, they did not all storm the U.S. Capitol.

“The actions you engaged in cannot happen again,” Chutkan told Palmer at his sentencing hearing Friday.

Before his hearing, Palmer drafted a letter to Chutkan, apologizing for his role in the Jan. 6 riot, which sought to subvert the 2020 presidential election results. The letter was attached to the sentencing memo submitted by his defense attorney.

A letter written by Robert Scott Palmer filed in U.S. District Court asks for mercy as Palmer faces sentencing for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
A letter written by Robert Scott Palmer filed in U.S. District Court asks for mercy as Palmer faces sentencing for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. [ U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ]

In the letter, Palmer said he had been deceived 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,” the 54-year-old 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.”

Prosecutors said that the tone of the letter directly contradicted an online post that Palmer had asked a friend to post a few weeks earlier, soliciting donations for Palmer’s legal fees. Palmer said he was stressed by his incarceration when he drafted that post, and that it was removed and all of the donations were refunded.

According to his plea agreement, Palmer flew to Washington, D.C., to attend a rally in support of former President Donald Trump. Following the rally, he headed toward the Capitol and was seen on the Upper West Terrace around 4 p.m. with other rioters, the agreement said. He was holding a sign that said “Biden is a pedophile.”

An image included in a government sentencing memo shows Robert Scott Palmer holding a sign outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots.
An image included in a government sentencing memo shows Robert Scott Palmer holding a sign outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots. [ U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ]

Palmer moved toward a Lower West Terrace tunnel entrance, where he threw a wooden plank and a fire extinguisher at police officers, according to the plea agreement.

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At his sentencing hearing, Palmer became emotional while addressing the court. He said while he was in jail, he saw a clip of himself on MSNBC, where he was shown attacking police officers during the riot.

“I’m really, really ashamed of what I did,” Palmer said during the hearing.

Palmer was identified by internet sleuths, who spotted his “Florida for Trump” hat and a jacket patterned after the American flag. He was dubbed “FloridaFlagJacket” by those who saw his photos circulating on social media.

Nearly 700 people have been accused of crimes in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Almost a year later, 75 people in Florida have been arrested in connection with the riot, the most of any state so far.

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.

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