Isaac Yoder took a gamble on his Capitol riot case.
Charged with four misdemeanors, the Missouri locksmith — who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 dressed in Revolutionary War gear — turned down a deal with the government to plead guilty to one count, a strategy that for many other defendants has resulted in a sentence of probation. Yoder opted instead for a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth.
In May, the D.C. court’s senior judge found him guilty on all four counts. And on Friday, Lamberth sentenced Yoder to 12 months in prison on two counts each and six months on the other two counts each. The terms are to run concurrently, which means he will spend a year in prison.
Lamberth also ordered 12 months of supervised release, fined Yoder $1,000 and ordered him to pay $500 restitution for the more than $2.9 million in damage to the Capitol.
Yoder was charged in July 2021 with four misdemeanors: entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; violent entry and disorderly conduct in the Capitol; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol.
He faced a maximum three years in prison and fines of $210,000. The government had recommended a sentence of 13 months’ incarceration, 36 months’ probation, 60 hours of community service, $500 restitution and a $16,646 fine — the same amount authorities said Yoder’s sister raised for his defense on a crowdfunding site
Jail time was justified, the government said in a court filing last week, because Yoder lied to prosecutors about his actions on Jan. 6. On that day, he climbed a scaffolding and entered the Capitol amid shattered glass, a broken door and blaring alarm with an ornamental sword hanging in a scabbard on his belt and carrying a flag on a pole. And he showed no remorse for his actions, the government said, including when he spoke at a gathering in southwest Missouri in July to honor Capitol riot defendants.
“Such a sentence protects the community, promotes respect for the law, and deters future crime by imposing restrictions on his liberty as a consequence of his behavior,” the Justice Department said in the filing.
In his own sentencing document filed Thursday, Yoder, of Nevada in southwest Missouri, asked the judge for probation and community service “if the court feels it is appropriate.”
“This case has been a valuable lesson and is one to never be repeated,” the filing said.
But Yoder also argued that he was not one of the rioters who caused physical damage, assaulted police officers “and in many other ways disgraced the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol.”
“His crime is based upon his entering the U.S. Capitol and walking around public areas within the Capitol for less than 20 minutes,” the filing said. “At no time does the government allege that he was violent, was chanting political statements, or had damaged any property. He followed police orders and exited when he was specifically told to do so by an officer.”
Yoder’s filing said that shortly after entering the Capitol, he climbed on top of a pile of broken wooden furniture and tried to discourage others from violence. He soon stopped, it said, because it appeared no one was listening.
After circulating through the Crypt area, Yoder’s court filing said, an officer asked him to leave and he complied. He said he made his way back to his family and his vehicle and they drove home to Missouri. Yoder met with the FBI after his arrest in March 2021 and admitted entering the Capitol, it said.
“Mr. Defendant Yoder further cooperated by voluntarily giving the FBI agents his cell phone and some of the colonial attire he wore on January 6, 2021,” the court filing said.
Yoder turned down an offer by the government last year to plead guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol and later requested a bench trial. Lamberth conducted the trial in March and decided the case.
At his trial, Yoder said he had entered the Capitol through a fire exit and that police did not prevent him from going inside.
But Lamberth wrote in his guilty verdict in May that Yoder had decided to go into the Capitol after his brothers told him that former Vice President Mike Pence had “folded” by refusing to block the certification of the election and that other rioters were fighting with police.
“Yoder did more than simply go inside, however,” Lamberth wrote. “Yoder made a speech to other rioters atop a pile of broken furniture, walked around the hallways and Crypt in colonial gear with a flag and sword, and allowed other rioters to take photos with him, all adding to the chaos and further impeding efforts of the police officers to clear the building.”
In its sentencing memorandum filed last week, the government said when Yoder testified at his trial, he falsely “cast himself and other rioters as welcome guests at the Capitol” and said that police “seemed to have complete control.”
But Yoder’s public statements made after the riot and even after he was found guilty, the government said, “demonstrate his intent to obstruct the certification of the election and his complete lack of remorse for his crimes.”
“He remains animated by his belief that the election — and the events of January 6 itself — was fraudulent.”
Prosecutors said Yoder was interviewed at the Truth and Light Freedom Festival in Rogersville, Missouri, last month, an event organizers said was designed to celebrate and raise money for Jan. 6 defendants.
“During the post-trial interview, Yoder accepted no responsibility for his criminal conduct and instead blamed the government for the events of January 6,” the sentencing document said.
Yoder “appeared to agree with the interviewer’s characterization that the Court was a ‘kangaroo court,’” the government said. He also acknowledged that there was an ongoing fundraising effort for his defense.
“The defendant’s sister created a ‘GiveSendGo’ donations page for ‘Isaac Yoder aka George Washington Legal Defense’ and has raised at least $16,646,” the document said.
“The website indicates the funds ‘will be received by Isaac Yoder’ and that Yoder ‘is quickly incurring significant financial debt from the efforts to defend himself,’” the government said. “However, since the inception of the case, Yoder has been represented by court-appointed counsel. Yoder should not be able to ‘capitalize’ on his participation in the Capitol breach in this way.”
Yoder’s court filing Thursday included 16 letters from friends, family and business associates who described him as an honest, hard-working, trustworthy man who had earned respect from the church and community.
His in-laws called him “a gifted and godly young man.” A longtime acquaintance said he was “a person of excellent character and integrity.” Another described him as “a sincere patriot, desirous of only good for his country and fellow Americans.”
Some, however, sharply criticized the government and defended Yoder’s actions on Jan. 6.
“Leaving aside our complete disgust with the travesty of convicting this man in the first place, we want to instead focus on what he means to our community…,” wrote Jerry and Cyndia Haggard, of Nevada. “Since you hold his fate in your hands, we implore you to remember your robes and position are supposed to represent justice, not an agenda. This country has been bruised enough by the spectacle of unaccountable government. Please do not add to the unraveling of our nation through an unjust sentencing of this gentle soul.”
And Jason Claspill wrote: “I am taking my valuable time to write this letter as a sign of support for Isaac and his legal actions on January 6th, a day that has been wildly blown out of proportion. He has my support, and I hope others will peacefully exercise their rights to protest in the future.”