Two Springfield women accused of breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6 — both while on probation or bond for prior felony convictions — were sentenced Friday, one to a halfway house and the other to jail.
Cara Hentschel, 35, was sentenced to 45 days in a “residential re-entry center,” 36 months’ probation, 60 hours of community service and a $500 fine.
Mahailya Pryer, 35, who invaded the Capitol with Hentschel, was ordered to serve 45 days of incarceration, 36 months’ probation and 60 hours of community service. U.S. District Judge Florence Y. Pan also ordered Pryer to participate in an inpatient substance abuse program and undergo drug testing.
In addition, the two also are required to pay $500 restitution for damage to the Capitol building on Jan. 6, which prosecutors say totaled about $2.7 million.
The women, both of whom have served prison time for previous offenses, pleaded guilty in May to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
The two appeared by video conference in back-to-back hearings in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Hentschel told the judge she was “100 percent very remorseful” for her actions on Jan. 6.
“I’m not only embarrassed, but, like, I have been affected by this in so many different ways,” she said.
And Pryer said: “I am very, very apologetic for what happened on January 6. I do think that it’s a horrible thing. ... I’m very remorseful for what I’ve done, the harm that I caused.”
Before sentencing them, Pan told the women that though they didn’t commit violence or destroy property themselves, they were part of a mob that did.
“January 6, 2021, was a dark day for our country,” Pan said. “A peaceful transfer of power as the hallmark of our democracy was disrupted violently by a mob that swarmed the United States Capitol and overwhelmed the law enforcement officers…That mob acted with the intent to overturn the results of a free and fair election. The mob acted to subvert the will of the American people who voted in that election.”
That mob, she said, used force, violence and intimidation “to try to install the loser of the election as the winner.”
“And in so doing, the mob literally and symbolically desecrated our government institution.”
The government’s sentencing memorandums filed with the court said Hentschel and Pryer drove with two others from Missouri to Washington, D.C., to attend the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. Afterward, they joined the mob of protesters who entered restricted grounds at the Capitol and ascended the stairs on the east side of the building that led to the Rotunda doors.
The women were “among an increasingly agitated and raucous crowd that repeatedly clashed with police and caused multiple breaches at the Rotunda Doors,” the documents said.
Both women voluntarily entered the building but told FBI agents that they had no choice because the movement of the crowd forced them inside. Their entrance was just minutes after the second breach of the Rotunda doors, according to the documents.
“There were clear signs of violent entry when they entered the building,” the sentencing documents said. “The door’s glass panes were shattered, and broken glass was on the floor. Alarms sounded and police had been assaulted in that location minutes prior to their entry into the building. When they entered, officers were still engaged in confrontations with rioters.”
The women roamed through the Rotunda and adjoining hallways, then exited the building after about eight minutes, the documents said.
Afterward, the documents said, “Hentschel boasted and bragged about her involvement in the riot and being one of the first to make entry into the building. In some of the posts and messages, she falsely bragged about breaking into Speaker Pelosi’s office.”
‘Little respect for the law’
Hentschel’s social media statements “unequivocally endorsed the riot, and perhaps worst of all, demonstrated that she encouraged future violence,” the documents stated. She also destroyed evidence after the riot, admitting to deleting videos and photos from her phone.
The sentencing records described Hentschel’s extensive criminal history, saying it “demonstrates that she has little respect for the law.”
Since 2008, Hentschel has been convicted of 11 misdemeanors and three felony drug offenses, the documents said. The felonies involved a 2017 Greene County case in which Hentschel was sentenced to 15 years’ incarceration. The court suspended the prison term and placed her on probation for five years.
“Between 2017 and 2019, Hentschel violated the terms of her probation a remarkable eleven times,” the documents said. Her probation was ultimately revoked, and her underlying prison sentences were reimposed. She participated in an early release program, was released after 120 days and placed back on probation for five years.
“Hentschel was serving her probationary sentence when she traveled to the Capitol and participated in the riot,” the document said.
Hentschel’s sentencing memorandum filed with the court included letters of praise from her supervisor at a Springfield communications company and her mother, who said her daughter had struggled for years with addiction, starting as a young teenager.
“Thank God, she finally was incarcerated,” her mother wrote. “It saved her life. She came out clean and sober for the first time in her adult life. Since the day she was released, she has straightened out her life and atoned for past mistakes.”
Since being released from prison, Hentschel’s mother wrote, “She has made one mistake, on Jan. 6. She never intended it to become what it turned into, and she regrets it beyond words.”
‘Extensive criminal history’
Pryer also has a criminal history that includes felony offenses, according to the sentencing documents — a record the government described as “troubling.”
Since 2008, Pryer has been convicted of multiple felonies and several misdemeanors, the documents said. One felony offense was for breaking into a vehicle and stealing credit cards and currency.
She was initially sentenced to four years’ probation, but it was revoked and she was imprisoned for 120 days, the documents said. After her release she was put back on probation, but she violated it again and was sent to prison for three years.
“While on probation and parole, she had a stunning 92 violations,” the sentencing documents said.
“Pryer’s extensive criminal history, recidivism, (and) difficulty in adhering to the mandates of law enforcement demonstrates that she has little respect for the law,” the government said.
In Pryer’s sentencing memorandum filed with the court, her attorney said she had been “largely compliant” with her release conditions but recently relapsed and checked herself into an in-patient drug treatment facility.
On Thursday, the government filed an addition to her sentencing memorandum, saying it had just learned that Pryer had used heroin this month in violation of her pretrial release on the Capitol riot charges. And last week, the document said, the government discovered that Pryer had been convicted of a felony in Missouri in April. The conviction stemmed from a 2017 charge of endangering the welfare of a child involving drugs. She was sentenced to five years in prison, but the sentence was suspended and she was placed on five years’ probation.
Pryer was on bond for that offense when she participated in the Capitol riot.
Since the riot, Pryer has had two more criminal cases — a felony offense in Lawrence County for operation of a motor vehicle without a valid license in April 2021, and a felony offense in Greene County in August 2021 for operation of a motor vehicle without a valid license. That case also included misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.
Written statements express remorse
In a written statement to the judge, Hentschel described the events that took place on Jan. 6, 2021, as “nothing short of horrifying.”
“The fact I was there is extremely embarrassing and I’m very ashamed that I went inside the Capitol that day,” she wrote. “After seeing the footage, my heart breaks for the Capitol police who risked their lives that day, and even more for all the lives that were lost and affected by this.
“There is absolutely no excuse, and I do believe I should be held accountable. I now understand that being an American means honoring the Constitution and laws and conducting myself in a way that honors the principals that govern us. I will never violate those principals again.”
Pryer said in a handwritten note that she was “deeply sorry” she participated in the riot.
“I went to D.C. to only support my beliefs and voice them,” she wrote. “I did not go to cause any kind of damage or harm. My actions that day was due to getting wound up by the other people around us. It was so chaotic and everything happened so fast….
“My actions on January 6th were unacceptable… I hate that the events of January 6th happened as they did. I only meant to peacefully protest. I recognize my issues and want to change. I accept responsibility for my actions and apologize for any harm I caused. I hope the ones I upset can forgive me.”