Buford man avoids prison time for Jan. 6 charge

Verden Andrew Nalley of Buford was charged with three felonies for his role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. He was arrested Feb. 16, 2021, by the FBI and Gwinnett County sheriffs.

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Verden Andrew Nalley of Buford was charged with three felonies for his role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. He was arrested Feb. 16, 2021, by the FBI and Gwinnett County sheriffs.

A Buford man who spent 40 minutes inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot will serve no prison time after a federal judge agreed he was caught up in the mob mentality that day.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich on Thursday sentenced 50-year-old construction worker Verden Andrew Nalley to two years probation, community service and a $500 fine, largely agreeing with his defense attorney’s contention that Nalley had been influenced by the fervor of the pro-Trump mob when he entered the Capitol.

“It does seem that he was swept up in the events of that day,” Friedrich said. “He did not come to Washington with gear or weapons.”

Prosecutors had asked that Nalley be sentenced to 14 days in prison as part of his agreement to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, arguing that his social media comments following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack showed a lack of remorse. According to court records, two weeks after the riot Nalley posted on social media a threat to “be back with guns in two weeks if (the presidential election results were) not fixed.”

Defense attorney Thomas Hawker pointed out that Nalley had virtually no criminal record, aside from a misdemeanor marijuana charge when he was 18, and he had not been charged with assaulting police or damaging property during the riot.

Friedrich, a judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, questioned assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Rozzoni at length over whether there was evidence that Nalley intended to make good on the online threats.

“It’s really hard for judges to determine whether these are just rants from defendants,” she said. “That they just like to stir people up on the internet.”

Rozzoni said the government had no evidence against Nalley “beyond statements” that he intended to return to Washington, but she pointed out he had already shown by his presence on Jan. 6 a willingness to travel to the city. And his social media posts showed an attitude of disregard for the seriousness of the attack, she said.

“He was minimizing what happened that day,” she said.

Nalley went to Washington with his friend, Americus attorney William McCall Calhoun Jr. The two men played in a band together and had attended an earlier “Stop the Steal” rally at the Georgia Capitol in December 2020.

Calhoun faces five federal charges including felony obstruction of an official proceeding, which carries a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

“He did not plan on going into the Capitol,” Hawker said. “He didn’t hesitate, but he went in, got caught up in it.”

Nalley said little during the sentencing, but told the judge he recognized his “huge mistake.”

“I just want to move on,” he said.

Friedrich was convinced.

“He was a bit slower to express his remorse than he should have been,” she said. “I do believe he now recognizes the seriousness of his conduct, and he is now on a different path.”

Also Thursday, Baker County resident and former Pelham police officer Shane Michael Daughtry pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from the riot. Daughtry, 59, faces a prison sentence of up to six months, along with fines and probation, when he is sentenced in June.

Daughtry left the police force before the riot and was turned into the FBI by Pelham police officers who saw his social media posts on Jan. 6.

“We just tore down the fence and stormed the Capital (sic),” Daughtry wrote in one post. “They’re throwing flash bangs at us now ... pepper spray everywhere.”

In his plea hearing, Daughtry told U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss that he “never personally tore down any fencing or did any type of destruction myself,” but he admitted that facts behind the charge were correct.

There have been 19 defendants with Georgia ties charged in the Jan. 6 riot. So far, 10 have entered guilty pleas.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Verden Andrew Nalley’s attorney. The story has been updated with the correct information.