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Autistic Capitol Rioter Receives Probation, Not Prison, for His Participation in the January 6 Riot

by Jo Ellen Nott

On October 26, 2022, defendant Nicholas Rodean was sentenced to 240 days of home confinement for his participation in the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.  Rodean, 29, had been convicted in July 2022 of a felony and six misdemeanors in conjunction with the storming of the Capitol.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, had found Rodean guilty of destroying government property and six other charges during a bench trial. The misdemeanor counts were entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a Capitol Building, engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building, committing an act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds of Capitol Building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building.

Rodean brandished a hatchet and smashed two windows with a flagpole after taking an Uber from his home in Fredericksburg, Maryland, to attend the Stop the Steal rally at Trump’s behest. The mentally ill young man will serve no jail time after Judge McFadden found that Rodean’s Asperger’s caused him to be easily and effectively influenced by assertive male figures.  Federal prosecutors had recommended a 57-month sentence for Rodean.  

Only a day earlier, on October 25, McFadden had sentenced insurrectionist Hunter Seefried to 24 months in prison for charges like Rodean’s.  The judge found that the young man’s mental illness affected “the blameworthiness of his conduct.” He told Rodean during the sentencing that similar cases of property destruction had received lengthier sentences and that he was giving him “a real break.”

Rodean’s face and figure went viral during insurrection media coverage as he was photographed standing next to January 6 rioter Jacob Chansley, famously wearing the horned helmet and face paint during a standoff with Capitol police. 

Rodean’s parents and sister were in the courtroom during the sentencing proceedings. His sister addressed McFadden and expressed concern that prison would ravage her brother’s mental health and ruin his newly successful dog-walking business.   She concluded, “Autistic people do not fare well in prison.”

We can only wish that defendants of color or of a marginalized group who suffer from mental illness could be as fortunate as Mr. Rodean in being spared from incarceration. 

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