WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A Nampa man who forced his way into the U.S. Capitol Building and assaulted officers during a failed coup to stop Congress from certifying the result of the 2020 presidential election was sentenced Friday to four years and three months in federal prison.
The sentence imposed on 68-year-old Duke Wilson is among the longest yet handed down to any participant in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. He is one of six Idahoans charged with participating in the attack on the Capitol, and the first to be sentenced.
Wilson, who pleaded guilty in September to assaulting a federal officer and obstructing an official proceeding, told the judge that he had not intended to harm anyone when he flew to D.C. to attend the "Stop the Steal" rally for former President Donald Trump.
Defense attorney Chuck Peterson described his client as a non-violent retiree who got "caught up in the crowd" as Trump supporters surged into the Capitol and clashed violently with officers.
Wilson believed falsehoods that the 2020 election had been stolen through voter fraud, Peterson argued. In fact, exhaustive bipartisan investigations have found no evidence of widespread fraudulent voting or ballot tampering anywhere in the U.S.
"I think he went there with the best of intentions," the lawyer said. "He did not go there with the intent to overthrow the United States government."
But once inside the Lower West Terrace tunnels, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tortorice said, videos of the chaos show that Wilson was "among the most aggressive people in that crowd."
As a line of officers struggled to hold back the mob, Wilson hit and shoved members of the Capitol Police. Body camera video and clips uploaded to YouTube show him push an officer to the ground, wrench a riot shield from another, and use a PVC pipe to strike and jab at officers before flinging it at them.
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Even after being pepper-sprayed, the Nampa man continued to attack, Tortorice said.
"Mr. Wilson is not trying to retreat, he is not shying away from engagement with the officers - he is aggressively pursuing them," he said. "He wasn't trying to get out, I think that's obvious from the video."
Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, one of the officers Wilson attacked, described the violence as he tried to keep the crowd back. An Iraq War veteran, Gonell was no stranger to combat, he said.
"I was used to fighting against enemies of the United States, but I never encountered what I did on Jan. 6," he said.
Gonell said he was "face-to-face" with Wilson, who he described as leading the surge in the tunnel. The defendant shoved him and swung at him with a pipe, later picking up a flagpole and using it as a weapon, he recounted.
Gonell said he suffered cuts to his hands and his leg, a foot injury that required surgery, and a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. He is still undergoing physical therapy and mental health counseling, he said, and remains on light duty with the Capitol Police - a designation that has significantly lowered his pay.
The officer said he does not believe that Wilson feels any remorse for the attack, and expressed outright disgust over sentences of only a few weeks in jail handed down to other Capitol rioters.
"Those who attacked the Capitol as insurrectionists should be punished. This was not a peaceful protest," Gonell told the judge. "I remember vividly that day what happened to me, to him, and his intent was clear to me - to go through the tunnel, to go through the entrance by all means."
Ultimately, five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died, and more than 100 officers were hurt. The mob also caused more than $1.4 million worth of damage inside the Capitol.
In a statement before the sentence was handed down, Wilson said that he was sorry for what he had done, adding that he had "made a very bad decision." Wilson surrendered in April 2021 after learning the FBI was looking for him; he was indicted by a grand jury a short time later.
Wilson said he entered the lower west terrace tunnels after another member of the mob motioned him inside, telling the judge he got hit in the head during the chaos, and can recall very little of his conduct in the riot.
"I didn't have a plan. There was no plan to do any of this," he said. "Some of the videos they showed me, I can't believe I was doing anything like that."
The prosecution cast doubts on the assertion that Wilson did not remember his actions.
"It just seems to be the parts where he is doing the worst things that he has the foggiest memory," Tortorice said.
Judge Royce C. Lamberth rejected the defense's request for a lower sentence than federal guidelines called for, telling Wilson that it was imperative to send the message that his conduct was unacceptable.
"That was a horrible day for our country," he said.
In addition to the prison time, Wilson will spend three years on supervised probation. Restitution for his role in the riot will be set at a later date, Lamberth ruled.
Wilson will be allowed to self-surrender to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his term.
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