Jan 6 rioter who wore ‘Camp Auschwitz’ sweatshirt gets 75 days in jail
A Virginia man who stormed the United States Capitol while wearing an anti-Semitic “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt over a Nazi-themed shirt was sentenced to 75 days in prison on Thursday.
Robert Keith Packer, 57, refused to address U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols before sentencing him in a hearing held via video link. The judge noted the “incredibly offensive” message on Packer’s sweatshirt before imposing the sentence.
“It seems to me he was wearing that sweatshirt for a reason. We don’t know what the reason was because Mr. Packer didn’t tell us,” Nichols said.
Photographs of Packer wearing the sweatshirt went viral after January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. When asked by FBI agents why he wore it, he replied “fatuously”: “Because I was cold,” a federal prosecutor said in a court filing.
Packer’s sweatshirt featured an image of a human skull above the words “Camp Auschwitz.” The word “Staff” was on the back. It also bore the phrase ‘Work brings freedom’, a rough translation of the German words above the entrance gate to Auschwitz, the concentration camp in occupied Poland where the Nazis killed over a million men, women and children.
A sweatshirt lying on top of other anti-Semitic clothing
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst said she learned on Wednesday that Packer was also wearing an “SS” t-shirt – a reference to the Nazi Party 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 abhorrent or perverse they may be” when he joined the crowd supporting then-President Donald Trump, saying said the prosecutor.
Packer “wanted to support the subversion of our republic and keep a dictatorial ruler in place by force and violence,” Furst told the judge.
Defense lawyer Stephen Brennwald acknowledged Packer’s attire was ‘seriously offensive’ but argued it shouldn’t be a convicting factor as he has the right to wear it in free speech .
“It’s just awful that he wore that shirt that day. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to give him more time because of it because he’s allowed to wear it,” did he declare.
Brennwald added that Packer was offended and angry at being called 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 linking him to white supremacy at a press conference several days after the riot.
Packer declined to speak at Thursday’s hearing because he didn’t want his remarks “splattered” on social media, his attorney told the judge.
Packer one of more than 850 people charged with federal crimes related to Jan. 6
Packer, a resident of Newport News, Va., pleaded guilty in January to one count of marching, demonstrating or picketing a capitol building, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison.
Packer told the FBI he was about 10 to 12 feet from a rioter, Ashli Babbitt, when a police officer shot her as she tried to climb through the broken window of a barricaded door leading to the President’s Hall.
“He told officers he heard the gunshot and saw her fall through the window she was trying to get through,” Furst wrote in a court filing.
Furst said Packer expressed no remorse during his interview with the FBI.
“He was more interested in recounting 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 clemency. She said her brother’s sweatshirt “could be considered in bad taste”, but added that “free speech” is not a crime.
Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 75 days incarceration followed by 36 months probation. Brennwald asked for a probationary sentence without jail time.
FBI agents arrested Packer a week after the riot. He remained free pending sentencing.
Packer is a freelance pipefitter. Prosecutors say he has a lengthy criminal record, with about 21 convictions, mostly for drunk driving and other motor vehicle offenses.
More than 870 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on January 6. About 400 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. More than 250 riot defendants were sentenced, about half of them to prison terms ranging from seven days to 10 years.