A Capitol riot defendant who was recorded by the FBI this week doubting her own guilty plea was handed a sentence of three years’ probation Thursday by a federal judge.
Traci J. Sunstrum, 45, of Amherst, NY, received the lengthy probation rather than 14 days of jail time plus probation as recommended by federal prosecutors, the Buffalo News reported. U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper sentenced Sunstrum to three years of probation, 30 days of home confinement and $500 restitution.
In handing down the sentence, Cooper expressed concern about the legality of a split sentence.
“(Cooper) thought it more important for her to be supervised on probation for the next three years than spend a few weeks in jail,” the paper reported. The judge expressed concerns over Sunstrum’s “lack of productive social and professional networks.”
And there was this:
“The judge noted Sunstrum was wearing a QAnon hat during the riot."
“Cooper said he was not punishing her for her political views or personal associations, but he expressed concern whether some conspiracy theory would cause her ‘to answer this kind of call again.’"
Prosecutors have noted her Facebook posting on Jan. 6, 2021. "I had a duty to my general and POTUS to be there to capture the truth. If I go to jail, I GO WITH PRIDE," she wrote.
"’In light of her statements for being there because ‘my POTUS called me to be there,' it seems to me those facts warrant a period of probation or supervision to ensure that she is free from these sorts of influence going forward,’" Cooper said at Thursday's hearing.
There was this unusual twist to the story, according to the newspaper report:
“During the sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Strain said the FBI alerted him to a conversation Sunstrum had Wednesday night. ‘Essentially, the FBI obtained this recording and sent it to me,’ Strain told the judge.
“Sunstrum's recorded comments reflected her feeling that she was backed into a corner to enter a guilty plea, that her attorney was not on her side and that she did not have enough time to consider her Nov. 17 plea to illegal parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol, Strain said. She appeared to be talking to another Jan. 6 defendant," he said.
Cooper asked Sunstrum if she still stood by her plea, and she said yes. He also asked her whether she pleaded guilty because she was guilty, or because she was pressured to plead guilty.
"I do have remorse for how my actions were that day," she said.
"Did you do the things you admitted to in open court," he asked.
"Yes, Your Honor," she replied.
Cooper spent 30 minutes in the Capitol and was not accused of violence, theft or vandalism. You can read the FBI criminal complaint here.