PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence a Hopkinton man to three weeks in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
William Cotton, 53, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday after striking a deal with prosecutors in June where he agreed to plead guilty to one count of “parading, demonstrating and picketing in a Capitol building.” The government agreed to drop three other charges as part of the agreement.
In a sentencing memo filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week, federal prosecutors have recommended a sentence of 21 days in prison, six months of probation and $500 in restitution, to go toward the $2.8 million in damages the Capitol building endured.
An FBI investigation found Cotton traveled from Rhode Island to Maryland on Jan. 5, “with plans to attend the Stop the Steal rally the following day.” Security camera footage shows Cotton entering the Capitol building shortly before 3 p.m., just moments after other rioters had broken through a doorway. Inside, he yelled “traitor” at Capitol police officers who were trying to push back the crowd, according to prosecutors.
“Cotton was part of a crowd that was much larger than the small police line, a crowd that had shoved officers back and violently breached the area just minutes before,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Haag wrote in the sentencing memo. “The angry fervor of the chant sent a chilling message to the officers whose backs, in that moment, were literally against the wall.”
Cotton was arrested on Dec. 7, 2022, and agreed to an interview with FBI agents. Prosecutors said Cotton failed to show remorse for his actions, telling agents, “It’s a misdemeanor. It doesn’t really mean that much to me, so I would tell ya everything.”
“Cotton does not view this case or his participation in the January 6 riot as serious,” Haag wrote. “Put differently, Cotton does not take this case seriously because he does not expect this Court to take it seriously.”
Cotton faces up to six months in prison for the charge he agreed to plead guilty to. Prosecutors compared Cotton’s actions to other defendants who have already been sentenced to come up with the three-week recommendation. But Haag said some prison time is important in these cases.
“This was not a protest,” Haag wrote, adding a prison sentence sends an important message of deterrence, “because many of the rioters intended that their attack on the Capitol would disrupt, if not prevent, one of the most important democratic processes we have: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected President.”
The U.S. Department of Justice reported earlier this month they have charged 1,146 people for their role in the riot. Of them, 623 have been sentenced, with more than half receiving prison time.
Four Rhode Islanders have been charged in the ongoing federal investigation into the attack. Timothy Desjardins and Juan Rodriguez’s cases are still pending. In May, Bernard Joseph Sirr of North Kingstown was sentenced to two months in prison. He is now out and on home confinement, according to prison officials.
U.S. District Chief Judge James Boasberg is scheduled to sentence Cotton at 11:30 a.m. on Friday at federal court in Washington.