A man from Virginia who stormed the US Capitol while wearing an anti-Semitic The “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt over a Nazi shirt was sentenced to 75 days in prison on Thursday.
Robert Keith Packer, 57, declined to address US District Judge Carl Nichols before sentencing him during a hearing held via videoconference. The judge noted the “incredibly offensive” message on Packer’s sweatshirt before handing down the sentence.
“Seems to me he wore that sweatshirt for a reason. We don’t know what caused it because Mr. Packer didn’t tell us,” Nichols said.
Photos of Packer wearing the sweatshirt went viral after the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. When FBI agents asked him why he was wearing it, he “silly” replied: “Because I was cold.” a federal prosecutor said in a court filing.
Packer’s sweatshirt featured an image of a human skull over the words “Auschwitz camp.” On the back was the word “Staff”. It also bore the phrase “Work Brings Freedom,” a crude translation of the German words above the front gate of Auschwitz, the concentration camp in occupied Poland where Nazis killed more than 1 million men, women and children.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst said she learned Wednesday that Packer was also wearing an “SS” T-shirt — a reference to the Nazi Party, a paramilitary organization founded by Adolf Hitler — under his sweatshirt on Jan. 6. Packer “attacked the very government that gave him the freedom to express those beliefs, no matter how heinous or evil,” the prosecutor said as he joined the mob supporting former President Trump
Packer “wanted to support the subversion of our republic and use force and violence to keep a dictatorial ruler in place,” Furst told the judge.
Defense attorney Stephen Brennwald acknowledged that Packer’s clothing was “seriously offensive” but argued that it should not be a factor in the conviction as he has the right of free speech to wear them.
“It’s just awful that he wore that shirt that day. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to give him extra time just because he gets to wear it,” he said.
Brennwald added that Packer was offended and angry at being labeled a white supremacist “because he doesn’t see himself that way at all.” The defense attorney said Packer wanted him to sue House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for associating him with white supremacy during a press conference a few days after the riot.
Packer declined to speak during Thursday’s hearing because he didn’t want his words “splattered out” on social media, his attorney told the judge.
Packer, a resident of Newport News, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor in January parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
Packer told the FBI he was about 10 to 12 feet away by a rioter, Ashli Babbittwhen a police officer fatally shot her as she attempted to climb through the broken window of a barricaded door leading to the speakers’ lobby.
“He told agents he heard the shot and saw her fall back out the window she was trying to climb through,” Furst wrote in a court filing.
Furst said Packer showed no remorse during his FBI interview.
“He was more interested in covering how he received hate mail and how he was ‘hounded’ by the media for interviews,” she added.
Packer’s younger sister, Kimberly Rice, wrote a letter asking the judge for leniency. She said her brother’s sweatshirt “could be considered distasteful,” but added that “freedom of speech” is not a crime.
Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 75 days in prison followed by 36 months of probation. firewood was seeking a suspended sentence without jail time.
FBI agents arrested Packer a week after the riot. He has remained free while awaiting sentencing.
Packer is a self-employed pipe fitter. Prosecutors say he has a long criminal record with about 21 convictions, mostly for drunk driving and other motor vehicle violations.
More than 870 people have been charged with federal felonies for her January 6 conduct. About 400 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges. More than 250 defendants were convicted, with about half receiving prison sentences ranging from seven days to 10 years.