At 81 years old, Gary Laird Wickersham is the oldest known Capitol rioter to be convicted and sentenced.
Authorities say Wickersham was one of the hundreds of intruders who entered the Capitol building on 6 January, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed Congress. Photos in the criminal complaint show the elderly man wandering through the halls of the Capitol and appearing to argue with police officers.
According to the complaint, Wickersham later told the FBI “he believed that he was authorized to enter the Capitol because he pays his taxes”.
Wickersham was charged with entering a restricted building, violent entry in a Capitol building, parading in a Capitol building, and impeding government business.
But he accepted a deal with prosecutors, and pleaded guilty only to the parading charge, a misdemeanor. On Tuesday, Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced him to 90 days of home detention, three years of probation, and a $2,000 fine.
“This is the first defendant I’ve had who is older than me in quite some time,” Judge Lamberth commented, according to Law & Crime.
The average Capitol riot defendant, prosecutor Sean Murphy pointed out, is about 39 years old – less than half of Wickersham’s age.
The elderly defendant’s lawyer, Michael Noone, pushed for a probation-only sentence, arguing that his client’s waning years made any detention time disproportionate to his crimes. In all, Mr Noone said Wickersham spent less than half an hour in the Capitol.
“In many ways, that decision, in those 22 minutes, is now going to define an 81-year-old man’s life,” the lawyer said.
Wickersham himself also spoke at the sentencing, and expressed remorse.
“I got off the bus and as I was walking by the Capitol, that was the last place in the world where I thought I’d be traipsing for 22 mins inside,” he said. “For my whole 81 years, that 22 minutes I spent in there – that was a dark blot on my life and I regret doing it.”
It has been almost a full year since the 6 January insurrection. In that time, more than 700 people have been charged in connection to the attack.