Jan. 6 riot ‘not patriotism’ judge says in sentencing Ga. man

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson Tuesday sentenced a Georgia man to more than two years in prison for threatening to assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, as she also blasted the political environment in which the threats were made.

“The heated and inflammatory rhetoric that brought the defendant to the district has not subsided. The lie that the election was stolen and illegitimate is still being perpetrated. Indeed, it is being amplified, not only on social media but on mainstream news outlets. And worse, it has become heresy for a member of the former president’s party to say otherwise,” Jackson said from her Washington, D.C., courtroom.

“It needs to be crystal clear that it is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America, and it is not justified to descend on the nation’s capital at the direction of a disappointed candidate and threaten members of the other party,” she said prior to imposing the sentence.

Jackson sentenced Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., 53, to 28 months in prison followed by three years of supervised probation and urged him to get the comprehensive mental health treatment recommend by his defense team. Meredith pleaded guilty to a single count of interstate communication of threats in September.

“I know what I did was wrong. I understand. I take full responsibility,” Meredith told the judge..

Meredith has been in jail without bond since his arrest on Jan. 7 and will get credit for the time he has already served, meaning he will spend a less than a year and a half more in prison. Defense attorney Paul Kiyonaga asked Jackson to sentence Meredith to time served, but Jackson was unmoved.

Jackson hammered home her belief that Meredith was a symptom of a larger problem.

“I have to think about the other purposes of a criminal sentence,” she said.

Among those other factors is deterring others from committing the same offense, she said.

“The level of discourse in this country has become so debased and degraded that even public officials — people who are supposed to be our leaders — think nothing of calling for someone’s head if they disagree with them,” she said. “And the threats against members of Congress, members of the cabinet, members of the judiciary, members of the press — all people doing their jobs — multiply every day.”

Meredith is among small minority of the more than 675 defendants associated with the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot to have been sentenced to prison, but he is unique in that he missed the riot entirely.

Meredith was travelling from Denver to attend the Jan. 6 Trump rally but was delayed by car trouble, arriving later in the evening in the wake of the violence. He was arrested in his Washington, D.C., hotel room the following day after his mother called the FBI concerned about text messages he sent to an uncle threatening to assassinate Pelosi.

“Thinking about heading over to Pelosi (expletive) speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV,” Meredith wrote. He made a similar threat against Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The FBI found the messages on his cell phone, and when they searched a trailer he was hauling behind his car, they found an assault rifle, a semi-automatic handgun, and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition, including armor-piercing rounds.

Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Kiyonaga described the text messages as a “lot of blather” from a man with a history of mental illness.

“This was not anything evincing a serious threat,” he said. “Mr. Meredith is a lot of things, and I’ll tell you one thing, he’s a lot of talk.”

Meredith does not have a criminal record, but he does have a history of violent and erratic behavior, behavior that worsened as Meredith become entranced by the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to court filings.

Meredith graduated from the prestigious Lovett School in Atlanta and earned a degree in economics from Sewanee: The University of the South in 1990. He owned and operated the CarNutz car wash on U.S. 41 in Acworth but made news in 2018 for erecting a billboard near the business promoting QAnon.

A brief filed by the prosecution outlines Meredith’s checkered past, including a violent assault where he allegedly pushed his father’s head through a window, a 2005 assault arrest that was not prosecuted, and multiple road rage incidents.

And on Jan. 7, amid his barrage of texted threats, Meredith got into a fight with a D.C. driver, headbutting him and punching him as he lay on the ground.

Details of these alleged events are contained in sealed court records, and they likely will remain so. Jackson agreed to keep certain details about Meredith’s mental history under seal to protect his privacy.

“This has been a long time coming,” the judge said, adding that she intended to stay involved in the case.