WASHINGTON — A woman who said as she left the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6 that she had hoped to murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge.
“I would like to accept my responsibility for what I did, for my part in January 6,” Dawn Bancroft, 59, of suburban Philadelphia, said in federal court in Washington, D.C., as she admitted to illegally demonstrating.
Judge Emmet Sullivan questioned why Bancroft was not being asked to take more responsibility, given the comment she admits making in a video as she left the building during the storming of the Capitol: “We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin’ brain, but we didn’t find her.”
Calling those words “horrible” and “clearly troubling,” Sullivan asked prosecutors why Bancroft was not charged with threatening a government official, a felony. Bancroft pleaded guilty alongside her friend Diana Santos-Smith, a fellow Bucks County resident, to a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Murphy said Bancroft made the comment while leaving the building and that there was no indication she intended to act on it.
“It was a dumb, stupid comment,” Bancroft told the judge, one she said she made in jest. “I did not mean it.”
Her attorney added that Bancroft did not post the video online; she shared it with her children and a few others, including a friend who provided it to the FBI.
Sullivan said Bancroft was “fortunate” not to face more charges but that the “outrageous statement” would come up again at her sentencing. He asked her to think about how “good people who never got into trouble with the law on Jan. 6 morphed into terrorists.”
Pelosi, who on Jan. 6 presided over the ceremonial certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory, was a particular target of the mob that overran the Capitol that day. Her office was ransacked, and rioters searched for her as they roamed the halls.
Sullivan was himself the target of a threatening voice mail in 2019, while he was overseeing the prosecution of former Trump appointee Michael Flynn. A Long Island man who told the judge that “a hot piece of lead will cut through your skull” was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Bancroft and Santos-Smith came to Washington, D.C., together by train, according to court records, and twice entered the Capitol building through broken windows. They stayed for about a minute each time, they said, deterred from going further by the size of the crowd.
“You can’t breathe, you can’t see,” Bancroft said in her video.
Sullivan told Santos-Smith that she would also face tough questions at sentencing.
“We’re going to have a long talk … about what the heck you were thinking,” he said. “How did you get yourself into this mess?”
Noting that on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks President George W. Bush had compared the danger of “violent extremists at home” to international terrorism, the judge said, “I agree with him.”
Both women are set to be sentenced Jan. 25.
Sullivan, a federal judge since 1991, was appointed to the district court in 1994. He is one of several members of the bench who have publicly questioned whether participants in the Capitol assault are being treated too leniently by the Justice Department.
“You disgraced this country in the eyes of the world, and my inclination would be to lock you up. But the government is not asking for me to lock you up,” Judge Reggie B. Walton told another misdemeanor defendant Friday. “Because it was an attack on our government … to see someone trying to destroy the Capitol of our country, and to see what you did is very, very troubling.”