Gwinnett County man sentenced in Jan. 6 charge

“I don’t know what came over me,” defendant says as he begs federal judge for mercy
Jonathan Davis Laurens of Duluth, seen in this selfie posted to social media, is accused of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. He faces multiple misdemeanor charges.

Jonathan Davis Laurens of Duluth, seen in this selfie posted to social media, is accused of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. He faces multiple misdemeanor charges.

Gwinnett County resident Jonathan David Laurens, who described his entry into the U.S. Capitol alongside an angry pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, as “fun,” will spend a year on probation, including the next two months on house arrest.

Laurens was sentenced Friday in federal court after admitting to being among the first to enter the Capitol through an exterior door on the Senate side. From there, the 39-year-old land surveyor traveled through the Capitol to the House side where a mob was attempting to pry open the doors to the House chamber while armed guards protected the retreat of the representatives trapped inside.

A few moments later, Laurens took a selfie from a reception room adjacent to the House in front of a portrait of George Washington.

“We got into the capitol, walked around, chanted some slogans and stuff,” he wrote on Facebook when he posted the photo. “We weren’t there to tear (expletive) up, just disrupt the system. All in all, I had fun! LOL.”

U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras noted that Laurens was one of several Jan. 6 defendants to use “LOL” — internet shorthand for “laughing out loud” — to describe the violent attack which injured more than 100 police officers, caused an estimated $1.5 million in damages and is connected to the deaths of at least seven people.

“Now that you’ve had some time and some perspective and hopefully have been a little better educated about the violence that took place on that day and the law enforcement lives that were lost and the officers that were sprayed with bear spray in their face and the beatings and the like that they received, would you still characterize it as ‘LOL?’” the judge asked.

“No, sir, not at all. That day I was not in the right mindset, I guess,” Laurens said. “Looking back on it, it was a very, very poor decision on my part and on the part of that mob that shouldn’t have been there.”

Contreras imposed the sentence via Zoom teleconference from Washington, D.C., while Laurens, of Duluth, joined from Georgia, a typical arrangement as federal authorities attempt to resolve charges brought against more than 840 Americans from almost every state in the union in the unprecedented unrest. So far, 22 people with Georgia ties have been charged, more than half of whom have pleaded guilty.

Laurens’ sentencing was scheduled four months ago after he entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully demonstrating inside the Capitol, but it came a day after a special House committee investigating the riot held its first nationally televised hearing where millions of viewers saw disturbing, previously unreleased videos of the riot.

“It was not a peaceful event, as some have tried to characterize it,” Contreras said. Instead, it was “a direct attack on our nation’s democracy,” he said.

Considering how far he made it into the Capitol, it is remarkable that Laurens will serve no jail time. Other defendants, including some from Georgia, have been sentenced to several weeks or months for similar misdemeanor convictions. Contreras noted Laurens’ lack of a criminal history and his acceptance of responsibility as mitigating factors in his judgment.

Laurens offered no defense or explanation for his actions that day.

“I don’t know what came over me,” he said. “I take full responsibility for doing it. I can’t take it back, so I lay myself before the court and beg for mercy.”