PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania man who was turned in by his ex-girlfriend after he called her a “moron” for not believing Democrats had stolen the 2020 presidential election was sentenced to nine months in federal prison Tuesday for participating in the Capitol riot.
Richard Michetti, 29, of Ridley Park, was arguing with his ex via text message on Jan. 6, 2021, as he pushed his way through police lines with an angry mob of Donald Trump supporters. He taunted and harassed officers, cursing and calling them “animals” and accusing them of “starting a civil war.”
But he struck a much more conciliatory tone Tuesday as he stood before U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper at his sentencing hearing in Washington. Michetti, a union construction worker, apologized to police, his family and the “average Americans who were engaged and fearful by the events that occurred that day.”
“Even though I thought the vote was not fair,” he said, “it does not give anyone the right to act in such a way.”
Despite Michetti’s remorse, the punishment Cooper imposed Tuesday — which also included a $2,000 restitution order and a two-year term of probation upon release — was one of the stiffer sentences handed down so far against any of the 23 Pennsylvanians who have faced sentencing for participating in the insurrection.
Most others have thus far received probation or fewer than two months of incarceration after pleading guilty to misdemeanor crimes. Cases against nearly four dozen more are still pending in Washington’s federal court, including that of Michael Dickinson, of Philadelphia, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of assaulting police officers during the melee.
Dickinson, 31, was arrested last year after the community of online civilian sleuths who have worked to identify participants in the riot flagged a photo of him circulating on social media — dressed in a bloodstained gray hoodie with a green shamrock emblazoned with the words “Grays Ferry,” “Devil’s Pocket” and “Schuylkill” written on each leaf and clutching a napkin to his injured mouth.
He admitted Tuesday to throwing a coffee tumbler at a police officer trying to keep the rioters at bay, striking an officer in the chest, and later hurling a bucket of water at other officers.
Michetti, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in May to one count of obstructing an official proceeding — a federal felony. Still, his punishment could have been far worse than the nine months he received Tuesday.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for him to be jailed for just shy of two years. Prosecutors sought 18 months.
“Michetti’s actions on Jan. 6 showed an absolute disregard for the rule of law coupled with a willingness to incite and engage in violence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst wrote in court filings in the run-up to Tuesday’s hearing.
Though Michetti did not assault or injure any of the officers he verbally taunted during the 45 minutes he spent inside the Capitol building, Furst said, “his actions … were those of a man ready to do battle.”’
Surveillance footage, police body cameras, and video Michetti posted to his Instagram account showed him near the forefront of a crowd that breached the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace doors. Within minutes, he was taunting officers trying to repel the mob, shouting “we pay you” and “we feed your family.”
Though he was briefly pushed back as officers shot pepper spray into the crowd, he later showed up in the Capitol rotunda and was seen yelling at guards: “You know you caused a civil war. You know that, right?”
All the while, prosecutors said, Michetti was also arguing via text message with his ex, who had seen the videos he was posting to Instagram and questioned why he was participating in the riot.
“This is tyranny,” he wrote. “They sat there and told us, ‘We rigged the election and there’s nuthin you can do about it.’ What do you think should be done?”
Echoing Trump’s 2020 election lies, he added: “If you can’t see the election was stolen, you’re a moron.”
She turned him in to the FBI the next day.
Since then, he’s told agents he headed to Washington on Jan. 6 fueled by outrage over the election and fears about the state of the country — including what he described as threats of violence made against his childhood neighborhood in South Philadelphia following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.
But despite his misguided beliefs, his attorney Perry de Marco Sr. said Tuesday, Michetti never planned to be part of an insurrection. The attorney blamed Trump’s call for attendees of his Jan. 6 rally on the National Mall to march to the Capitol building.
“He truly believed the election had been manipulated by the Democrats and that the Biden victory was unjust,” de Marco said. “His decision was made in an instant and rose from his admitted pain and disgust and his fervent belief that the country was moving in a horrible direction.”
For his own part, Michetti told the judge Tuesday that he’d made strides toward addressing the rage he says fueled him that day. He’s enrolled in anger management classes and is now a regular church attendee.
“Unfortunately, it took these tragic events for me to realize that my anger was out of control and had started to negatively affect the people around me,” he told the judge. “The person on display on Jan. 6 is not the same person your honor sees here today.”