Dawsonville man avoids jail in Jan. 6 charge

Judge chalks it up to ‘youthful indiscretion’
The FBI announced on Feb. 9, 2021, the arrest of Benjamin Harry Torre, 22, of Dawsonville in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The FBI announced on Feb. 9, 2021, the arrest of Benjamin Harry Torre, 22, of Dawsonville in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Benjamin Harry Torre of Dawsonville avoided jail time for breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but he will spend the next year on probation, including two months of house arrest.

“Let’s chalk this up to a youthful indiscretion,” U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras said during a sentencing hearing Thursday in Washington, D.C.

During the riot, Torre climbed through a broken window on the Senate wing of the Capitol. He then posed for photos in the Senate spouses’ lounge and an office used by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., before leaving 15 minutes later through the same window.

“I deeply regret and I’m remorseful for all of my actions that day,” Torre, 24, told the judge via videoconference from Atlanta.

Typically, prosecutors have argued that Jan. 6 defendants who entered the Capitol spend at least some time in jail, with more time for those making it into “sensitive areas,” like congressional offices. In Torre’s case, the government had asked for 14 days in jail to be followed by three years of probation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberley Charlene Nielsen said Torre saw the mob inside and outside the Capitol and the destruction they had caused but entered the Capitol and wandered around anyway.

Torre was “wide-eyed and wondering as to what was going on, as opposed to being appalled,” Nielsen said.

Torre’s attorney, Maria Jacob, said the prosecution’s description was apt for a man who still lived with his parents and had little life experience.

“His entry into the senator’s office was a product of immaturity,” she said. Since his arrest, Torre has taken responsibility for his actions that day, speaking to his classmates at Lanier Technical College about the experience.

“He publicly denounced what he did and encouraged others not to make the same mistake,” she said.

Like many judges in the D.C. district court have done in similar cases, Contreras emphasized Torre’s actions were part of a larger criminal act, carried out by hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators who pushed past barriers, battled with police and caused more than $2.7 million in damages.

“The defendant contributed to these numbers, and he must be held accountable for his actions,” he said.

But the judge also appeared convinced that Torre, who had no prior criminal convictions, did not appreciate the seriousness of his actions at the time.

“Someone living with their parents and working at the Gap does not reflect someone with a lot of life experiences,” he said. “I hope this has provided you with life experiences that have matured you.”

Jacob said Torre lost his job at the Gap after his arrest but has since found other employment. Contreras also imposed fines totaling $1,613 and ordered that all guns be removed from the Torre household for the period of probation.

The sentencing hearing is not the end of the legal drama for Torre’s family.

His mother, Christine Torre, is fighting a subpoena for cellphone records from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot. Christine Torre was a volunteer for the “Stop the Steal” movement organized by activist Ali Alexander, who is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to quash the subpoena.

So far, more than 840 people have been charged in the sweeping Capitol riot investigation, including 22 either from Georgia or with strong ties to the state. Twelve of those Georgia defendants have pleaded guilty, mostly on plea deals for misdemeanors. Many of the remaining defendants face more serious charges, including assaulting police officers and seditious conspiracy.