A federal judge in Washington, DC today sentenced Vincent J. Gillespie, 61, of Athol, to 68 months in prison for ramming cops with their own riot shields on Jan. 6, pulling one of the cops towards the surging mob as another protester beat him with a crutch and screaming at the police in his way that they were traitors.
Gillespie was so hated in his hometown that he was turned in by several townspeople not long after the FBI released photos of him at the Capitol. The people who contacted the FBI included a former neighbor, a manager at the hardware store he shopped at and three municipal workers for Athol - a town he railed against for installing parking meters downtown. He was arrested Feb. 18.
In a sentencing memorandum urging Judge Beryl Howell to sentence Gillespie to 87 months, federal prosecutors summed up the case against Gillespie, who was convicted by a federal jury on five of eight counts: Assaulting police officers, interfering with police officers during civil disorder, engaging in physical violence in a restricted federal building and committing federal violence in the Capitol.
Gillespie fought his way through the crowd to make it all the way to the police line at the entrance of the tunnel. As other rioters turned away, Gillespie pressed on.
While in the tunnel, Gillespie used police riot shields, controlling different police riot shields at different points in time, both offensively to push his way forward to the police line to get into the Capitol, and defensively, to prevent the police from fending him off. Gillespie can be seen assaulting Sergeant Riley, using both hands to grab Riley to pull him out into the mob. While restraining Sergeant Riley, he could not fend off assaults from other rioters (such as the rioter who used a crutch to hit Sergeant Riley) ... Video exhibits and testimony showed that Gillespie restrained Sergeant Riley for at least seven seconds. While assaulting Sergeant Riley, Gillespie restrained Sergeant Riley's movements such that Sergeant Riley was unable to stop the attack on him by another rioter, who hit Sergeant Riley with a crutch as Gillespie restrained Sergeant Riley. Sergeant Riley also described in testimony his inability to move because Gillespie was pulling him so forcefully by the arm. Immediately after the assault, Sergeant Riley can be seen re-entering the Capitol appearing disoriented.
After Gillespie assaulted Sergeant Riley, he gained control of a police riot shield again. Gillespie controlled the shield for nearly three minutes, and used it offensively, raising the shield high and then slamming it down.
Gillespie admitted during his testimony at trial that while inside the tunnel, he tried pushing against the police to gain entry to the Capitol. He further admitted that when he realized that was an ineffective strategy, he decided to pull officers individually, with the aim of separating them from each other to break the police line.
After assaulting Sergeant Riley, and while in the tunnel, Gillespie screamed "traitor" and "treason" at the police. ... Gillespie then kept moving closer toward the doors of the Capitol and was inside the tunnel for approximately fifteen minutes. Gillespie only left the tunnel after police physically forced him out.
Gillespie's attorney, though, said his client was a simple man who just happened to get caught up in the tide of events, and that he deserved no more than 30 months in prison.
He said Gillespie did not wield the police shields as dangerous weapons because he did not intend to hurt anybody with them.
He did not target or pin any officer; instead, his was an ill-conceived and ill-defined rush to move past the officers. Importantly, Gillespie did leverage additional force, either his own or of others, to amplify the potential injury as McCaughey. In short, there is simply no support that Gillespie's use of the riot shield rendered it an instrument capable of inflicting death or serious bodily injury and the cross-reference is unsupported.
And he gave his version of what happened after Gillespie, his then housemate and two friends spent the night driving down to DC:
he rally was largely a bust for Mr. Gillespie because he could not hear the speeches. He and the group he was with decided to leave, following the then-marching crowd down to the Capitol. They arrived well after the initial breaches of the Capitol had occurred. The group made their way up to and on temporary scaffolding where they remained for some time. Mr. Gillespie ventured on toward and into the Lower West Terrace Tunnel where, over the next 15-20 minutes, he engaged with officers by (1) running into the phalanx of officers with a riot shield held in front of him (after watching another rioter do the same), (2) ineffectually grabbing the arm of Sergeant Paul Riley, (3) shouting "traitor" and "treason" (after watching yet another rioter do the same), and finally (4) participating in a scrum of rioters pushing and being pushed toward the Lower West Terrace entrance doors to the Capitol. The rioters were expelled from the Tunnel withing a few minutes, with Gillespie taking several blows by baton to the head. He abandoned any further efforts to enter the Capitol. After answering questions posed by an AP stringer, he reunited with his friends and drove back to Massachusetts, arriving late at night.
In the following days, weeks, and months, Mr. Gillespie did not post about his participation in the January 6 events on social media or otherwise extoll the events of January 6 or laud his participation in them.
Gillespie, "a man of causes that occasionally evolve into obsession," is unlikely to ever do anything like this again, the attorney continued.
An unusual childhood morphed into an adult life first featuring introspection and spiritual searching. He settled down in later years and has lives exceedingly modestly, choosing instead to devote time and resources to myriad projects and causes that reflected is skepticism of the role of government action an individual lives while at the same time striving for the perceived greater good of the community. ... As his cousin, Kim Bonavita, described him to the Probation Department, Mr. Gillespie is "frugal, serious, brutally honest, very eccentric, fair, caring and a great sense of humor."
With no immediate family or significant other, Mr. Gillespie leads a simple, largely monastic life in rural Massachusetts. He does not own a television, and until recently did not have internet access at his home, preferring instead to engage in community by driving to coffee shops and grocery stores to log on to news and other websites for some part of his days. His clothing is from thrift stores and overstock suppliers. He drives twenty to thirty-year-old cars in dubious repair. He does not travel internationally, and what travel he does do within the United States is purpose-driven rather than for leisure.
Government sentencing recommendation (2.4M PDF).
Defense sentencing recommendation (325k PDF).