Marine Vet With PTSD Given More Than 5 Years In Prison, Fined $200,000 Over Jan. 6

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, May 06, 2024 - 03:20 AM

Authored by Joseph M. Hanneman via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Ryan Taylor Nichols, a Marine Corps veteran and disaster-rescue specialist who argued that post-traumatic stress drove his behavior at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, was sentenced on May 2 to more than five years in prison and fined $200,000 for assaulting police and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Marine Corps veteran and Jan. 6 defendant Ryan Nichols during a hurricane rescue mission. (Joseph McBride via U.S. District Court)

Mr. Nichols, 33, of Longview, Texas, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth to serve 63 months behind bars and fined $200,000—the lion’s share of the $237,708 raised on a GiveSendGo page set up for his legal and household expenses.

It was the largest fine issued in a Jan. 6 criminal case.

Judge Lamberth also ordered Mr. Nichols to serve 36 months of supervised release and pay $2,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors sought an upward departure from federal sentencing guidelines in asking for an 83-month prison sentence. The Department of Justice stressed Mr. Nichols’s use of pepper spray on police and his incendiary rhetoric before, during, and after Jan. 6.

Mr. Nichols argued for time served after 28 months in custody, citing his severe PTSD and “horrific prison conditions” at the District of Columbia jail as major mitigating factors.

“Ryan Nichols is a good guy who made a bad decision on January 6. He’s paid his debt in the most cruel and unusual way possible,” defense attorney Joseph D. McBride told The Epoch Times. “The fact that he’s got to go back to jail for any period of time sickens me to my stomach.”

Mr. McBride said despite not objecting to the sentencing calculation made by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, the DOJ complained to Judge Lamberth on May 2 that an error needed correcting that would bump up Mr. Nichols’s sentencing range.

The judge allowed the last-minute change, Mr. McBride said.

I’m disappointed. I respect his [Judge Lamberth’s] service, but I don’t respect his decision today.”

‘Expletive-Laden Tirade’

Federal prosecutors stressed Mr. Nichols’s use of potent pepper spray on the police line near the Lower West Terrace tunnel and his participation in a heave-ho maneuver against police as evidence of his propensity for violence.

Mr. Nichols’s speech and his belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump drew extensive commentary and attention from prosecutors in their 36-page sentencing memorandum.

On his walk from the Ellipse to the Capitol after President Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, Mr. Nichols let loose with an “eighteen-minute, expletive-laden, threatening tirade,” prosecutors wrote.

Ryan Nichols aims a stream of pepper spray at police on the Capitol's Lower West Terrace on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. Department of Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

“I’m hearing reports that [Vice President Mike] Pence caved. I’m telling you if Pence caved, we’re gonna drag [expletive] through the streets,“ Mr. Nichols said on a social media broadcast. ”You [expletive] politicians are going to get [expletive] drug through the streets. Because we’re not going to have our [expletive] stolen. We’re not going to have our election or our country stolen.”

After hearing that protesters had breached the Capitol, Mr. Nichols urged them to “get up in there.”

“Cut their heads off,“ he said. ”Hey, Republican protestors are trying to enter the House right now at the Capitol is the word that I’m getting. So, if that’s true, then get up in there. If you voted for treason, we’re going to drag your [expletive] through the streets.”

Mr. Nichols also chanted, “Lock and load, lock and load, lock and load,” the DOJ memo said.

Late on Jan. 6, Mr. Nichols took to social media again to proclaim himself leader of a revolution, the DOJ said.

So, yes, I’m calling for violence! And I will be violent!“ Mr. Nichols said. ”Because I’ve been peaceful and my voice hasn’t been heard! I’ve been peaceful and my vote doesn’t count! I’ve been peaceful and the courts won’t hear me. So you’re [expletive] right, I’m going to be violent now!

PTSD Drove Behavior

Mr. McBride cited Mr. Nichols’s PTSD that grew out of his Marine Corps service and his work rescuing stranded residents and pets after countless hurricanes to cast his Jan. 6 behavior in context.

Because Mr. Nichols had stopped taking his psychiatric medications during the summer of 2020, he believed the country was at war when he traveled to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, Mr. McBride wrote in his 28-page sentencing memo.

Jan. 6 was a “PTSD-related aberration in Ryan’s law-abiding life,” Mr. McBride wrote.

Ryan’s earnest desire to legally participate in political protest was hijacked by his PTSD, which told him that America was under attack,” Mr. McBride said. “By the time Ryan walked over to the Capitol from the Ellipse on January 6, his PTSD had reached category-5 five hurricane status. His pupils were dilated. His heart was pounding.”

The man who recorded the video late on Jan. 6 “was so detached from reality that neither Ryan nor anyone from his family recognized him,” Mr. McBride wrote. “That is a man who lost impulse control because PTSD hit the override button in his brain.”

Mr. Nichols founded a nonprofit organization called Rescue the Universe that has saved the lives of more than 150 people in the aftermath of hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornadoes.

During Hurricane Michael in 2018, Mr. Nichols drove from Texas to Florida to assist the Coast Guard with rescues. He saved a woman who was eight months pregnant after she was trapped under the rubble of her home, Mr. McBride wrote.

Ryan Nichols of Rescue the Universe transports an elderly woman and child to safety during a hurricane operation. (Joseph McBride via U.S. District Court)

“On another occasion, he was called upon to evacuate several nursing homes. The staff evacuated and left the elderly residents to die,” Mr. McBride wrote. “Ryan tried to save as many lives as possible but could not save everyone.”

Although Mr. Nichols informed the U.S. Marshals and jail staff that he suffered from PTSD when he was arrested in January 2021, solitary confinement was used against him, and he suffered from other “horrible” conditions during pretrial detainment, Mr. McBride said.

‘Driven to Suicide Watch’

In one instance, “he was thrown into solitary confinement for three weeks,” Mr. McBride wrote. “His drinking water was regularly cut off for 20-hour periods. He was harassed and prodded to the point where he was driven to suicide watch.

“Suicide watch involved Ryan being stripped naked and forced to wear a plastic Tyvek suit in a brightly lit room where the guards continued to harm and encourage him to kill himself,” Mr. McBride said.

The mistreatment of Mr. Nichols was the subject of an Aug. 22, 2022, habeas corpus petition and numerous follow-up petitions seeking his release from custody. On Nov. 22, 2022, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ordered Mr. Nichols released to the custody of his wife, Bonnie Nichols.

Ryan Nichols of Rescue the Universe saves three dogs from floodwaters in Leland, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence in September 2018. (Joseph McBride via U.S. District Court)

Mr. Nichols spent 350 days on home detention before being ordered back behind bars in November 2023 when he pleaded guilty to two criminal counts under a deal with the DOJ.

In his sentencing memo, Mr. McBride argued that pretrial services erred in its calculation of possible prison time under federal guidelines. The correct range should have been 24–30 months, he said. Given Mr. Nichols’s 28 months in pretrial detention, he would be eligible for a sentence of time served.

Mr. McBride filed 57 character letters with Mr. Nichols’s sentencing memo and video statements from his client’s wife, father, and sons.

I don’t think my Dad is a criminal and he’s been locked away for a long time,“ Blake Nichols, 8, said in one video. ”I’ve known him for seven years and I think he’s a hero and he did a lot of good things in life and all of that added up to one bad thing.

“I was just wondering if you could make him come home,” the boy said. “It’s been very bad for him not to be here and I’ve been thinking about him all night.”

Mr. Nichols has great remorse over Jan. 6, Mr. McBride wrote, and he has suffered greatly in prison for it.

“Ryan is mortified by the videos and images depicting his outlandish January 6 behavior,” Mr. McBride wrote. “He apologizes sincerely for his words and actions on January 6, 2021, which harmed his family, country, and himself.

“January 6 is a severe and unfortunate aberration in his law-abiding life.”