Anna Morgan-Lloyd, who will serve no prison time, said she realized that she and others who breached the Capitol may have helped encourage the violence by other Trump supporters.
The first person to be sentenced in connection with the riot at the Capitol — a 49-year-old woman from Indiana — will serve no time in prison after reaching an agreement with the government and pleading guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.
At an unusual hearing where she admitted guilt and was immediately sentenced by a judge, the woman, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, expressed remorse for her role in the attack of Jan. 6. She apologized to the court, her family and the “American people,” saying it was wrong to have entered the Capitol even though she hurt no one, broke nothing and was inside for only about 10 minutes.
Ms. Morgan-Lloyd said she had gone to Washington to hear former President Donald J. Trump speak and was “ashamed it became a savage display of violence.”
“I would have never been there if I had known it would turn out that way,” she added.
At the hearing, the presiding judge, Royce C. Lamberth, made scathing remarks from the bench attacking the handful of Republican politicians who have labeled the assault on the Capitol the work of mere tourists, calling that position “utter nonsense.”
“I don’t know what planet they’re on,” Judge Lamberth said. “Millions of people saw Jan. 6.”
Ms. Morgan-Lloyd’s light penalty, three years of probation, was not only the first punishment handed down against any of the nearly 500 people charged in the attack, but is also likely to serve as a bellwether for scores of other rioters who committed no violence on Jan. 6 and were accused of only minor crimes.
Under the terms of her deal with the government, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also agreed to pay restitution of $500, her small part in defraying the estimated $1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol during the attack.
Two other Capitol Hill defendants also pleaded guilty on Wednesday at separate hearings. One of them, Robert Reeder, of Maryland, acknowledged committing a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, by illegally entering the Capitol after chanting, “Fight for Trump!” Under the terms of his plea, he faces up to six months in prison.
The other defendant, Graydon Young, of Sarasota, Fla., admitted to conspiring to breach the building as part of a military-style “stack” made up of members of the Oath Keepers militia and disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote. As part of his deal with the government, Mr. Young agreed to cooperate with prosecutors — the second member of the Oath Keepers to provide assistance to investigators. He faces an estimated 63 to 78 months in prison.
Even as the Capitol was assaulted, it was obvious that some in the mob were less aggressive than others, walking into — and through — the building taking videos and selfies, sometimes after the police let them in. From the outset of the sprawling prosecution that ensued, investigators have sought to treat these suspects differently from those who kicked down doors or shattered windows or who attacked police officers with weapons like ax handles, hockey sticks, flagpoles, bear spray and batons.
In court papers filed last week, prosecutors laid out seven reasons they believed Ms. Morgan-Lloyd should not have to serve time in prison in what could become a checklist of sorts for other minor defendants seeking no prison time. The prosecutors noted that Ms. Morgan-Lloyd was not violent at the Capitol, did not plan her breach in advance, remained inside only briefly and allowed investigators to question her thoroughly about her role in the riot as well as search her cellphone.
Prosecutors also said she had no criminal history and accepted responsibility for her wrongdoing in a timely fashion. While some Republican politicians have played down the Capitol attack, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd submitted a statement to the court saying that she was “ashamed” of her behavior and suggesting that her relatively peaceful part in the breach allowed others to do worse.
“At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I 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,” Ms. Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.”
On the advice of her lawyer, H. Heather Shaner, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also undertook a kind of sensitivity training, reading books like “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” “Just Mercy” and “Schindler’s List” to educate herself, as Ms. Shaner said in court filings, about “‘government policy’ toward Native Americans, African Americans and European Jews.” Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also watched “Tulsa Burning,” a documentary about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre on the History Channel.
“I’ve learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve,” she wrote in her statement. “People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street.”
Ms. Morgan-Lloyd, a longtime Democrat who supported Mr. Trump, went to Washington on Jan. 6 to hear him speak accompanied by a friend from Indiana, Dona Sue Bissey, the owner of a hair-care establishment called the Hothead Salon. The two were among some of the first people to enter the Capitol, but they did little more than walk down a hallway and then leave.
One day after the attack, Ms. Bissey posted a photograph on Facebook tagging Ms. Morgan-Lloyd and another person who was with them, writing, “It was a day I’ll remember forever.” Ms. Morgan-Lloyd responded with a comment that read, “That was the most exciting day of my life.”
Ms. Bissey was also arrested and faces similar charges. She has not yet pleaded guilty, but the judge in her case, Tanya S. Chutkan, suggested in a court filing last month that a plea might be forthcoming. Four other Capitol Hill defendants have pleaded guilty to relatively minor charges, among them a Florida crane operator and a married couple from Virginia. Prosecutors in those cases have recommended sentences of up to six months in prison and 41 to 51 months.
No one facing the more serious charge of assaulting police officers at the Capitol has yet pleaded guilty, although prosecutors have said at recent court hearings that they have opened plea negotiations with several assault defendants.