The sentencing of a Capitol rioter was interrupted when his mother pleaded for leniency to the judge.
US District Judge Reggie Walton sentenced 21-year-old Aiden Bilyard to 40 months in prison on Friday. Bilyard, who was 18 on January 6 2021, travelled to Washington DC from North Carolina along with two other friends, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Bilyard entered a plea agreement with the prosecution after he admitted in October to assaulting police with a deadly or dangerous weapon when he sprayed Capitol officers with a “pepper gel.” He faced 46 to 57 months in prison.
His mother Amy Bilyard told the judge “that’s not right” as he handed down the sentence, according to Politico reporter Kyle Cheney. Judge Walton’s answer to Ms Bilyard, who was in tears, was: “You make your bed, you’ve got to lie in it.”
“He’s lied in it,” Ms Bilyard reportedly said.
Bilyard was captured on surveillance video spraying law enforcement officers with “home defence pepper gel” on the lower west terrace, according to documents by the Department of Justice. He left the Capitol when he heard mention of assault rifles by other rioters.
He then drove back to his hometown in North Carolina that night.
The FBI interviewed Bilyard in 2021 but he denied taking part in the insurrection, despite being confronted with video evidence, according to the Observer. He was arrested later that year while he received basic training in Texas, and was later dismissed from the Air Force.
Bilyard’s attorneys had asked the judge for home detention and five years of probation. They argued that Bilyard was young and impressionable when he took part in the January 6 riots.
“Eighteen is old enough to know right from wrong,” the judge said before the sentencing on Friday, per the Observer. “… (T)o see this kind of violence, police fighting for their lives … yet you don’t get to the mindset at some point that ‘This is wrong, and I’ve got to stop’? It is just something that is chilling and beyond the pale.”
The defence also requested an evaluation by a forensic psychiatrist who found that Bilyard, who reportedly never met his father, saw in Donald Trump a “strong masculine figure.” They argued that the validation Bilyard received from older rioters motivated him to join them in the insurrection.
In a letter to Judge Walton, Ms Bilyard said his son was an “intelligent, warm and kind boy” whose role in the riot was an exception to the way he had been raised.
“He’d never been violent. He’d never NOT considered other human beings. He has … always had a reverence for police and their difficult jobs,” she wrote.