Georgia attorney William McCall Calhoun, Jr., who boasted of his participation in a “hostile takeover” of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and predicted a civil war if former President Donald Trump was not returned to power, was sentenced Friday in federal court in Washington, D.C., to 18 months in prison.
Calhoun, a 60-year-old criminal defense attorney in Americus, had asked U.S. District Court Dabney L. Friedrich for no jail time, citing an “onerous” two months spent in the Washington jail after his arrest a few days after the riot. After his release on bond, Calhoun said he was the target of “widespread media defamation, death threats and harassments” over the past two and a half years.
The experience has left him a changed man, his lawyer wrote in a memo filed with the court prior to his sentencing.
“Though his actions on January 6, 2021 have caused (and will continue to cause) him devastating life consequences, Mr. Calhoun will happily acknowledge that these events led him to turn his life over to Christ and strengthened his Christian faith,” attorney Jessica Sherman-Stoltz wrote. “It is through his faith in God that he hopes to begin his rehabilitation process.”
Along with his prison sentence, the judge ordered Calhoun spend two years on probation and pay $2,000 in restitution.
In a one-day bench trial in March, Friedrich found Calhoun guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. She also found him guilty of four misdemeanors.
Calhoun is one of 25 Jan. 6 defendants with ties to Georgia. Of those, 20 have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty. The remaining five are awaiting their day in court.
Calhoun was among the initial hundred or so rioters to enter the Capitol, making his way past broken glass and tear gas, through the Capitol Rotunda and up to the outer door of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We overran multiple police barricades and busted through,” he posted to social media after the riot. “The first of us who got upstairs kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door and pushed down the hall towards her inner sanctum. The mob was howling with rage. Crazy Nancy probably would have been torn into little pieces, but she was nowhere to be seen.”
Federal prosecutors sought twice as much time for Calhoun — 36 months — citing violent, conspiratorial messages Calhoun spread across social media in the months and weeks leading up to the riot and his lack of remorse afterward.
““I’m a lawyer, and a believer in law and order, but I’m here to tell you there are [i]s only one remedy for what ails this country — about 10-20 million of these rioting, racist communists need to die. Then the rest will straighten up,” Calhoun wrote in a post on the conservative social media platform Parler five days before the presidential election. an Oct. 29, 2020. “Until that happens we’re wasting our time.”
Three days after election, Calhoun posted even more threats.
“If you believe America elected Creepy Joe and his fake Negro (expletive) running mate, then put on your mask and STFU because we’re coming for you (expletive)!” he wrote in a Nov. 6, 2020, post to Parler. “This stolen election is a fraud. Trump won! And when the Supremes rule, we are going to deal with the communists! Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out!””
Investigators collected four AR-15 assault-style rifles, four shotguns, a 9 mm automatic pistol and cases of ammunition when they arrested Calhoun shortly after the Capitol riot.
Credit: U.S. Department of Justice
Credit: U.S. Department of Justice
During the trial, Friedrich signaled her skepticism that Calhoun’s behavior was materially different from that of rioters charged with misdemeanors.
Calhoun’s codefendant, Buford resident Verden Andrew Nalley, was alongside Calhoun throughout much of the riot, but prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor and was sentenced in March 2022 to two years probation. Prosecutors told Friedrich that Calhoun’s online comments before and after the riot showed he came to Washington with the intent to disrupt Congress and stop the certification of the presidential election.
Calhoun has repeatedly claimed the U.S. Department of Justice has singled him out unfairly.
“The government is trying to set a precedent for prosecuting and convicting a lawyer for thinking the wrong way,” he said in a state bar hearing last month over whether he should lose his license to practice law.
Calhoun’s status as an attorney was not lost on prosecutors.
“His training and experience make his participation in the Capitol riot all the more egregious,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo, noting that Calhoun had taken an oath when sworn in as a lawyer to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
“His actions were illegal and directly contrary to the oath that he took to protect the Constitution,” the prosecution wrote. “Moreover, since the conclusion of trial, Calhoun has continued to deny responsibility for his conduct and has attempted to evade the professional consequences of his conviction.”
Calhoun has continued to work as an attorney while awaiting sentencing. In most cases, lawyers convicted of a felony lose their bar license. Following a hearing in June, a special master appointed by the state bar recommended Calhoun’s license be suspended pending the outcome of any appeal of his felony conviction.