Athens couple sentenced for Jan. 6 charges

Nolan Harold Kidd (center) and Savannah Danielle McDonald (right) are seen in an interview with an independent journalist outside the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. Kidd and McDonald were arrested by the FBI June 11, 2021, in connection with the insurrection.

Credit: Young Patriot Society - YouTube

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Nolan Harold Kidd (center) and Savannah Danielle McDonald (right) are seen in an interview with an independent journalist outside the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. Kidd and McDonald were arrested by the FBI June 11, 2021, in connection with the insurrection.

Credit: Young Patriot Society - YouTube

When Georgia residents Savannah Danielle McDonald and Nolan Harold Kidd emerged from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and began giving interviews to journalists and posting on social media, there was little evidence they believed they had done anything wrong.

“We were definitely within the first 100-150 people in that building,” McDonald told a freelance journalist in a video posted to YouTube.

“I did get a souvenir,” Kidd said, whipping off his red “Make America Great Again” hat to reveal a cap belonging to the Capitol Police. Kidd even provided the journalists with cell phone video he took from inside the Capitol showing rioters shouting threats through a haze of tear gas.

But at their sentencing in separate federal court hearings this week, they told the judge their actions that day were profoundly wrong.

“Honestly, on (Jan. 7) I had the feeling that that was wrong,” McDonald said. “It was very dumb.”

In a teleconferenced hearing from Washington, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper on Tuesday sentenced McDonald to 21 days in prison. On Monday, he sentenced Kidd to 45 days.

The judge also had some stern words about the consequences of their decisions that day.

“When you think about people who died and what Jan. 6 has done to our country, how does it make you feel?” he asked McDonald.

“Not proud,” she said.

Cooper said Kidd’s leadership role in inviting McDonald to come to Washington and directing their actions once inside the Capitol made him more culpable, earning him a longer sentence.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 90 days for both of them. On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Kringer said McDonald “plain out lied” in an FBI interview a few days after the riot when she claimed Capitol Police welcomed them into the Capitol and continued to defend her actions to friends in online conversations on Jan. 7.

Kringer said McDonald told friends that she and Kidd might have to flee to Mexico.

“I’m sick to my stomach, but we did the right thing being there,” she wrote.

McDonald told the judge that she was “just talking big.”

Kidd and McDonald were 21 and 20, respectively, at the time of their arrest last June, making them among the youngest of the nearly 800 people charged in the riot. They each pleaded guilty earlier this year to a misdemeanor count of illegally protesting in the Capitol, which carries a maximum penalty of six months incarceration.

The couple, who according to testimony lived near Athens and were in a relationship together at the time, came to Washington on Jan. 6 to attend the pro-Trump Stop the Steal rally at the Ellipse before deciding to join thousands who marched on the Capitol. Once there, they entered the building through a Senate fire door pulled open by other rioters, making them among the first to breach the Capitol.

Once inside, they rode elevators to the Capitol basement and then back up where they joined a group of rioters in a standoff with police on the second floor. Photojournalists captured the scene showing the couple in the background as police talked with Jake Angeli, the “Q Shaman” whose bare torso and horned headdress became a viral image of the day.

Cooper noted that the couple spent 40 minutes inside the Capitol, which is more than most misdemeanor defendants, but credited them with not assaulting police or causing property damage.

Defense attorneys for Kidd and McDonald had asked for probation for their clients, who had no criminal history. But Cooper said some jail time was appropriate.

“I do think that history will judge how the court system has responded to Jan. 6,” he said, adding that justice must be swift but also fair.