WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who was a Princeton University student when he stormed the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Wednesday to two months of incarceration for interfering with police officers trying to hold off a mob of Donald Trump supporters.
Larry Fife Giberson, who graduated from Princeton earlier this year, was a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in political science when he and other rioters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He joined the crowd in a coordinated push against officers guarding an entrance in a tunnel on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace.
Giberson, now 22, expressed remorse and shame for his “careless and thoughtless actions” at the Capitol before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols sentenced him.
“I don’t believe my defining moment was there on the Lower West Terrace,” he told the judge. “Instead, I believe my defining moment is now, standing before you.”
Prosecutors had recommended sentencing Giberson to 11 months behind bars.
The judge, who also sentenced Giberson to six months of home detention after his term of imprisonment, described the New Jersey native’s conduct in the tunnel as “reprehensible.” But the judge said Giberson’s youth weighed in favor of a more lenient sentence. Nichols told Giberson that he views his two-month sentence as “something of a break.”
“I do believe that his expressions of remorse, generally and then again today, are candid and truthful,” the judge said. “That’s important to me.”
Giberson pleaded guilty in July to interfering with police during a civil disorder. The charge, a felony, carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
Giberson faced a backlash on campus after his arrest. The Daily Princetonian published an opinion piece in which a student argued that the university should have withheld Giberson’s diploma. The newspaper also reported that a Class Day student speaker alluded to Giberson’s case.
“Some of us actually made national news,” the student joked. “I guess you can say we’re taking the country by storm!”
A Princeton spokesperson wouldn’t comment on whether the Ivy League school disciplined Giberson before awarding him a degree. Other universities disciplined students who participated in the Jan. 6 riot.
The University of Kentucky suspended a student who had entered the Capitol during the riot and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense. UCLA suspended a student who stormed the Capitol while waving a flag promoting a far-right extremist movement. The Citadel expelled a student after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to the Jan. 6 attack.
Giberson was a political science major “specializing in American ideas and institutions” with an interest in Constitutional law and interpretation, according to prosecutors. He had “concerns about the 2020 election” and told FBI agents that he went to the Capitol “to encourage what he believed to be the ‘correct’ certification” of the Electoral College vote, prosecutors said.
Rioters clinging to baseless claims of election fraud disrupted the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Trump. More than 100 police officers were injured during the siege.
“He is a young man, but he is evidently capable of appreciating the implications of the January 6 attack on the Capitol and of his participation in that attack, having recently graduated college and earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Giberson and his mother drove from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally. They walked to the Capitol together but separated before Giberson went to the tunnel.
Giberson, wearing a Trump flag around his neck, entered the tunnel and approached the police line as other rioters assaulted officers — one of the most brutal attacks on Jan. 6.
After retreating to the mouth of the tunnel, he encouraged other rioters to move forward. Later, he tried to start a chant of “Drag them out!” and cheered on other rioters, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit. Giberson remained in the area for roughly an hour, the affidavit says.
The FBI posted images of Giberson on social media to seek the public’s help in identifying him. Online sleuths also posted images of Giberson using the “#DragThemOut” hashtag.
Investigators matched photos of Giberson from the Capitol to several images found on Instagram and Princeton University’s website, according to the FBI.
Giberson was the first member of his family to attend college and earned a Princeton degree earlier this year while working a part-time restaurant job, according to his attorney, Charles Burnham.
Burnham argued that Giberson’s youth “was manifestly the main reason for his decisions” on Jan. 6.
“Mr. Giberson is by all accounts passionate about politics and government,” the defense attorney wrote. “He was too young to vote in 2016 so 2020 was the first election in which Mr. Giberson could consider himself a true participant in the democratic process.”
Nearly 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial. Approximately 700 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.