An Essex County woman who triumphantly posed for a photo inside the United States Capitol in the Jan.6 riot will serve two months of house arrest and 36 months probation, a judge said on Tuesday Federal District of Washington, DC.
Rasha Abual-Ragheb, a single mother from Fairfield, pleaded with the judge not to serve jail time, sobbing that it would be a hardship for her two school-aged children, whom she had to remove from the classroom and home schooling due to the bullying that followed her arrest earlier this year.
“I never intended to do harm,” she said in her speech to Judge Carl J. Nichols, in a short but moving expression of remorse moments before her sentencing.
She pleaded guilty in August to marching, demonstrating or picketing the Capitol, an offense.
Federal prosecutors wanted a 30-day jail sentence for Abual-Ragheb, arguing his social media posts were disturbing, mentioning civil war, bringing guns to the nation’s capital and a fighting mentality authorities should “Kill her” to stop her. They started two days after the general election and were in disbelief that Donald Trump did not win.
On Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Michael Liebman admitted that in the absence of a criminal record, if she had committed the crime “in another federal building on another day,” the government would not seek incarceration.
But because she was “in that building that day, January 6,” Abual-Ragheb is expected to serve a small prison sentence as a deterrent for her actions, and others in the future, said Liebman.
Federal probation authorities had recommended 18 months probation in his case.
Abual-Ragheb’s lawyer Elita C. Amato reiterated that her client traveled to Washington on January 6 to protest and support then-President Donald Trump. She was dressed in a tutu to protest, and certainly not dressed in clothes suggesting she wanted civil war or combat.
Amato said some of Abual-Ragheb’s social media posts were “stupid,” but she had no intention of violence. She was only at the Capitol for a few minutes, took a picture and left.
The judge said he found Abual-Ragheb’s remorse genuine, his social media posts indeed “disturbing” and had taken his children into account.
“Overall, I have all the expectations and belief that the accused will not protest on Capitol Hill or commit other crimes,” he said. But there must also be a deterrent, he said, agreeing that January 6 was “no ordinary riot”.
The judge therefore doubled the probation to 36 months, added the two months of house arrest and a fine of $ 500.
In documents filed in court ahead of Tuesday’s sentencing, Abual-Ragheb’s lawyer wrote that his client’s path to the Capitol came from the sincere belief that his vote had not been counted in the election of 2020 – his first.
When Abual-Ragheb searched a New Jersey electoral register after the election, he returned without his name. Amato provided screenshots of the court records research.
Interestingly, Liebman said he searched the database in court on Tuesday and found Abual-Ragheb’s name and registration, and it appeared that Abual-Ragheb had searched for his last name with an underscore, not a hyphen.
While Liebman said Abual-Ragheb made a typo, Amato said that maybe it was, but her client believed she was being stripped of her rights.
Regarding her words and messages, Amato wrote that her client “believed in stories of children being taken away by elected Democrats and, as a mother, she wrote in an inarticulate manner that someone should kill her before they did. take away his children ”.
Amato also described Abual-Ragheb as being from Jordan who grew up rich, but with a strict father who arranged his first marriage. The marriage ended in divorce in the United States after physical and emotional abuse.
Abual-Ragheb believes her family sees her divorce as a disgrace to the family and that she would risk being killed if she returned to Jordan. She is a naturalized citizen, married a second time in the United States, but is divorced again due to physical and emotional abuse, and since her arrest she has suffered from medical issues, as well as years of mental abuse. because of his connections.
In her remarks to the judge on Tuesday, Abual-Ragheb delivered a tearful, sometimes rambling, speech in which she remembers growing up in a country with a dictator king who could make people disappear.
She said her words of “having to kill me” were akin to saying to a loved one in a moment of frustration, “I’m going to kill you. “
“It’s just a saying,” she said. She said she raised her children with respect for the police, supported the Second Amendment, but would never own a gun. And she said she attended the January 6 rally not with weapons, but with a “bottle of water and a phone.”
It ended with a pledge of patriotism, saying she didn’t really care who won the election, but believed New Jersey hadn’t counted their vote, “I just wanted to be counted.”
“God bless you and God bless the United States,” she told the judge.
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Kevin Shea can be reached at [email protected].