“He was simply upset that his guy (Trump) lost.”
WASHINGTON – An apparently contrite Edward Vallejo was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison and three years of supervised release, a fraction of the sentence prosecutors sought for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
In an emotional hearing in US District Court, backed by friends and family, Vallejo tearfully described himself as a “deeply repentant man” who was motivated by the false belief that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
“My love of God and my fellow man, my willingness to help and my commitment to my country” are the three things that govern his life, Vallejo told District Judge Amit Mehta. He said he was “extremely sorry” for the trauma police testified they suffered that day, and that he regretted his statements and involvement.
“I’ve learned to keep my big mouth shut,” Vallejo said.
Prosecutors were seeking a 17-year sentence for the Arizona man. Assistant US Attorney Troy Edwards Jr. recounted Vallejo’s role in the attack, as an organizer of a conspiracy to keep Trump in power and as leader of a “quick reaction force” ready to deliver truckloads of firearms to the Capitol.
“Vallejo was armed and ready to come into DC,” Edwards said. “He was ready and willing to make everything worse.”
Vallejo was convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack, one of nine members of the Oath Keepers group charged for their involvement that day. Five people died and hundreds were injured in the assault, including police officers who gave tearful testimony last month about the physical and emotional trauma they suffered that day.
While other Oath Keepers stormed the Capitol, Vallejo waited in an Arlington, Virginia, hotel room supplied with food and firearms to serve as the quick reaction force – or QRF – described by prosecutors.
His attorney, Matthew Peed, told the court Thursday that Vallejo did not touch any firearms that day and was not an active part of the riots. Peed described his client as “kind of goofy” due to his beard, his military-influenced speech, and his habit of collecting antique samurai swords.
“He was simply upset that his guy (Trump) lost,” he said.
Peed said Vallejo felt he had to do something to protect “the will of the people” that he thought had been subverted in the election, comparing Vallejo’s actions to those taken by protestors following the murder of George Floyd by police officers in 2020.
Peed asked for a sentence of 20 months.
But Edwards said Vallejo was the only Oath Keeper to remain dedicated to the group’s plan after Jan. 6. Vallejo shared a celebratory Olive Garden dinner with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes after the attack, Edwards said, then returned to the Capitol the following day to collect intelligence, and tried to meet with Rhodes to arrange the next stages of their plan.
Mehta handed down a sentence of three years in prison and three years supervised release, the first year of which will be spent in home detention.
Mehta said that while Vallejo played a “critical” management role in the attack, there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that he was in fact the leader of the QRF.
The judge acknowledged Vallejo’s 40-year commitment to sobriety as a recovering alcoholic and his sponsorship of other recovering alcoholics. He said that Vallejo’s age and spotless pre-trial record were taken into account during the sentencing.
Mehta cited Vallejo’s humility and history of helping others after hearing statements by Vallejo, his wife, and a friend. Mehta, who has presided over the trials of all nine Oath Keepers, said Vallejo appeared more contrite than the others and described Vallejo as someone “who has not led just a law-abiding life but one that garners respect.”
Vallejo’s wife, Debbie, told Mehta her husband “is not a violent man in any way.” She said her husband takes care of her and is always the first one willing to help others.
She described his year-long home confinement as just as limiting as a prison sentence. Vallejo, 64, pleaded with the judge to take into consideration his duty to care for his wife, who is in her 70s, and the impact his incarceration would have on her, their family, and animals.
Vallejo told the judge that he wished to spend his remaining days caring for her and their eight rescue cats.
“After all my wife has gone through this past year, if you feel that I have to be incarcerated please continue to let me do so at home,” he said.
Peed said he plans to appeal the sentence.
For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.
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