A middle-aged Indiana grandmother who referred to storming the Capitol with thousands of MAGA rioters on Jan. 6 as the “best day ever” became the first insurrectionist to get sentenced for her crime on Wednesday.
By all accounts, it was a slap on the wrist that offered hope for hundreds of rioters to get off easy.
Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a 49-year-old from Bloomfield, was sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. D.C. District Judge Royce C. Lambert also sentenced Morgan-Lloyd to 120 hours of community service and ordered she pay a $500 fee for her crime, stating that the grandmother received a lower sentence because of her immense remorse for her crimes.
Morgan-Loyd is among roughly 500 individuals who have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot—and among the first to cop to their crime. But the grandmother’s sentencing signals that similarly-accused insurrectionists who strike up a deal with prosecutors may not see jail-time, a dynamic one federal prosecutor described as a “massive win” for many far-right extremists.
“No question Morgan-Lloyd’s case will set precedent for the hundreds of non-violent accused individuals who participated on Jan. 6,” Neama Rahman, a former New York federal prosecutor, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “No question that some charged individuals will be breathing a sigh of relief about this sentencing. This slap on the wrist is a significant win.”
Prosecutors state that Morgan-Lloyd entered the Capitol with a friend—who was carrying a Trump campaign flag—for about 10 minutes after attending a “Stop the Steal” rally, part of a nationwide conspiracy falsely alleging election fraud that favored Joe Biden. After the riot, the grandmother-of-five took to Facebook to express her excitement over her participation in the siege to stop the electoral certification of Biden as president, admitting that she was among “the first 50 people” in the building.
“That was the most exciting day of my life,” Morgan-Lloyd wrote on her friend’s Facebook post the next day, according to her sentencing memo. “I’m so glad we were there. For the experience and memory but most of all we can spread the truth about what happened and open the eyes of some of our friends.”
Among other brutal acts, a slew of alleged rioters—including current and former military and law-enforcement—charged with more serious offenses have been accused of beating Capitol Police with fists, flagpoles, and other weapons.
But despite her participation in the siege, prosecutors state that Morgan-Lloyd, who has no prior criminal history, did not engage in any violent behavior or coordination on Jan. 6. In a letter to the court, Morgan-Lloyd took responsibility for her actions, stating that she “realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did.”
Ahead of Morgan-Lloyd’s sentencing, her defense attorney told The Daily Beast that her client was “terrified of incarceration” and was hoping to be “afforded the benefit of probation” after “a lifetime of volunteer work and rearing her daughters.”
When asked about her reaction to her client’s case being the first sentencing in the Capitol rioters investigation, attorney Heather Shaner admitted she did not initially realize the hearing had so much significance—or was wary about “how much precedent it will set.”
“Each individual defendant has his/her own story and his/her own actions to show how they have and will accept responsibility for their misconduct to our country,” Shaner said.
That certainly applies to alleged Oath Keeper Graydon Young, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding in connection to his role in the siege just minutes before Morgan-Lloyd’s sentencing. It amounted to the second conviction of a paramilitary rioter on much more serious conspiracy charges. During his plea hearing, Young agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and testify against his co-conspirators.
But while Young may receive a lesser sentence than other members of the far-right group who allegedly coordinated the attack as early as December, it’s extremely unlikely he will receive the same prison sentence as Morgan-Lloyd.
Rahman explained that Morgan-Lloyd’s sentence signals what accused Capitol rioters who were charged with federal misdemeanor crimes could expect to receive during sentencing—and set the baseline for those accused of more serious ones.
“A misdemeanor does not derail your life, it doesn’t change your life in any way,” he said.
For Morgan-Lloyd, her sentence comes after what she described as an immense amount of introspective work and education that amounted to watching the History Channel and getting a library card. In tears, she apologized to the court for her actions on Wednesday.
“I was there to show support for President Trump… and I am ashamed it became a savage display of violence that day.”
Before handing down her sentencing, however, Lambert said Morgan-Lloyd should have known Jan. 6 was not a peaceful demonstration even as he applauded her for taking responsibility for her mistakes.
“I don’t want to create the impression that probation is going to be the automatic outcome because it’s not going to be,” Lambert insisted. “Especially troubled that some members of Congress say it was tourists walking through Capitol.”
Two Capitol rioters who may benefit from Morgan-Lloyd’s sentencing are the Bustles. Last week, Virginia resident Jessica Bustle and her realtor husband, Joseph, pleaded guilty to storming the Capitol with signs protesting COVID-19 vaccines. The pair copped to the same charge as Morgan-Loyd, a sign their legal teams told The Daily Beast gives them hope for a probation sentence.
“Today definitely sets the precedent. Every attorney that sees this sentencing today will be rushing to get this deal,” Jessica Bustle’s attorney Nabeel Kibria told The Daily Beast. “The Bustles were not part of a big group or a conspiracy plot, and we anticipate that they receive a similar—and lesser—sentence than Morgan-Lloyd.”
Tim Anderson, the attorney representing Joseph Bustle, added that his team plans to argue for a similar sentence as Morgan-Lloyd’s, especially since his client also has no criminal history and, he says, did not cause any violence on Jan. 6.
Kibria added that while attorneys for clients with weightier charges will not be anticipating the same sentence, Morgan-Lloyd’s probation punishment “is a sigh of relief all around.”
“There were several different groups of people on the 6th,” he said, going on to lay out the defense strategy that might make many Americans’ heads explode in the days to come.
“There were some very bad people, but there were also chunks of people who support a political ideology who simply entered the building,” Kibria said. “Knowing the bar has been officially set for at least one charge is a huge relief for those who regret what they did. It also shows that the punishment isn’t as bad as they were fearing.”