‘Source of great shame’: Suspended Citadel cadet sentenced in Jan. 6 case
The Charlotte Observer March 16, 2023
YORK COUNTY, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — A suspended Citadel cadet has pleaded guilty to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot and has been sentenced to 14 days in jail, according to prosecutors and court filings.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced Elias Irizarry of Fort Mill, S.C., late Wednesday in a federal court hearing in Washington, D.C., according to federal prosecutor Ashley Akers of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Irizarry, now 21, also must pay $500 restitution, Akers said.
Irizarry pleaded guilty in October 2022 to one count of misdemeanor entering and remaining in a restricted area or grounds, testimony and court records show.
The maximum sentence for the conviction is a year in prison, the judge said. Federal probation officials recommended the 14-day sentence. Federal prosecutors asked for Irizarry to be sentenced to 45 days in jail, according to prosecutor statements Wednesday in court. Irizarry’s lawyer asked for no jail time.
Irizarry appeared in person in Washington court with his lawyer. Irizarry has no previous criminal record.
The sentence Chutkan gave Irizarry is the same as the two-week jail sentence she gave in 2022 to Elliot Bishai, who is a friend of Irizarry. Bishai was with Irizarry at the insurrection, documents show.
The Herald listened to some of Wednesday’s hearing through an online audio link provided by the federal court. Chutkan said the audio teleconference was allowed because of significant public interest.
Public audio in the hearing went on from the start of the hearing around 4 p.m. until part of the hearing was shut off because of possible information Chutkan said was not public.
In high school Irizarry was in the Marine Corps JROTC at Nation Ford High School in York County, S.C., court records show. Nation Ford is one of three high schools in the Fort Mill school district.
Irizarry was a cadet at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college in Charleston, until he was suspended in December 2022 after he pleaded guilty, according to a statement from The Citadel.
Irizarry at the Capitol riot
Irizarry went to hear the speech of then-President Donald Trump and was at the “Stop the Steal” Rally outside the Capitol before going inside on Jan. 6 after the Capitol was breached, according to court testimony and documents.
The insurrection was the same day that Congress was to certify the electoral college vote to make the presidential election of Joe Biden official. The events at the capitol caused the certification to be delayed for hours as police battled protesters.
In a letter to the judge that is part of the federal court public record, Irizarry stated he was ashamed of his participation on Jan. 6.
“My participation in an event like January 6th has brought great shame upon myself, my family, and, unfortunately, my country,” Irizarry wrote.
Irizarry stated in the letter that he later realized his presence at the capitol helped insurrectionists almost accomplish their goals.
“I want to make clear that I am not a victim,” Irizarry said in the statement “The only victim in this situation is the staff of the US Capitol, the members of the Capitol Police as well as their families who have lost their loved ones — and my family — which has had to bear great burden for my mistake.”
‘An active participant’
While at the Capitol, Irizarry carried a metal pole that came from a broken bike barricade, documents show. Irizarry climbed the scaffolding at the Capitol and was seen waving the pole, Akers said. He climbed in the building through a window, Akers said.
“This defendant brazenly paraded around the grounds ...,” Akers said.
Irizarry did not hit anyone with the pole, Akers said.
Akers was in several places in the building, including climbing on statues in the Rotunda, Akers said.
“He was an active participant, you can see him holding up the metal pole throughout,” Akers said. “He was all over the place. He only left after police regained control of the building.”
Irizarry also was previously a member of the Civil Air Patrol, documents show.
“Irizarry’s training at The Citadel and in the Civil Air Patrol would have provided him with a clear understanding of how dangerous his and the other rioters’ actions were on January 6, yet he chose to participate anyway,” prosecutors wrote.
Asked Thursday about Irizarry’s sentencing, a Citadel spokesman said:
“In December 2022, The Citadel suspended Elias Irizarry. Following a Commandant’s Board, he was found to have violated The Citadel’s policies for ‘Conduct Unbecoming a Cadet.’ A suspension requires a cadet or student to leave the college for one semester; they may reapply for admission after that time.”
‘No thought before entering the Capitol’
Federal public defender Eugene Ohm, Irizarry’s lawyer, said in court Wednesday that his client should not serve jail time.
“One of the words in regards to Elias in this is his constant use of the word ‘shame,’” Ohm said in court.
Ohm said Irizarry knows he should not have been part of the Capitol incident.
“The government is right that what Mr, Irizarry was a part of, he shouldn’t have been,” Ohm said. “He knows that.”
Ohm said Irizarry was 19 at the time of the January 6th incident and is an achiever who attended The Citadel and wants to be in the armed services.
“Elias put little to no thought before entering the Capitol,” Ohm wrote in court filings. “He is not and has never been an “election denier,” he was skeptical of some right wing talking points and entirely dismissive of their conspiracy theories.”
“Elias’s regret and remorse stands out,” Ohm wrote. “He does not think of his conduct as a ‘stupid mistake,’ but as a source of great shame and a sign of disloyalty to his country, his family and his name.... he will regret his actions for the rest of his life.”
More than a dozen letters supporting Irizarry were entered into the court record, according to the judge and court filings.
So far, more than 999 people from nearly all 50 states have been arrested in connection with the storming of the Capitol, according to the Department of Justice. Of those, approximately 518 have pleaded guilty to a variety of different charges.
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