SC man ‘caught in hoopla of Trump movement’ sentenced to probation in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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A Greenville area man who was a fervent supporter of former President received an 18-month probationary sentence on Thursday from a federal judge for illegally entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob on Jan. 6.

Alan Culbertson, 60, a self-employed house painter, avoided the 36 months probation, 30 days home detention and 50 hours of community service that federal prosecutors sought, according to federal court records of the case.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Culbertson after hearing from federal prosecutors and his lawyer, Lora Blanchard, a federal public defender based in Greenville. He could have gotten up to six months in prison.

“I believe he got caught up in the hoopla of the Trump movement and made a serious mistake,” a friend, Weldon Cook, of Greenville County, wrote the judge in a letter before sentencing.

Culbertson, who wore a Trump hat and traveled to Washington in early January 2021 to attend the Trump rally on the morning of Jan. 6 with two other Trump supporters, William and Joei Gallman, of Greenville County, was allowed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor offense of unlawful demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol. Trump had made numerous false public claims that he, and not Joe Biden, had won the November 2020 election and urged supporters to march on the Capitol.

But, wrote prosecutors, when Culbertson breached the Capitol, he disrupted one of democracy’s most sacred rites: “the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected president.”

Culbertson, prosecutors wrote, entered the Senate side of the Capitol with rioters in the first minutes of the building being breached “while alarms blared and other rioters were entering the building through smashed-out windows adjacent to that door, traveled to Statuary Hall and the Rotunda, seeing broken windows along the way and posed for photographs and took photographs of other rioters. He had also observed violent clashes between rioters and police officers and stayed inside the Capitol for approximately 35 minutes. He only exited when police forced him to do so.”

Culbertson “expressed at best, minimal remorse for his conduct during his two interviews with FBI agents,” prosecutors said.

Although Culbertson himself did not attack police on Jan. 6, his conduct “took place in the context of a large and violent riot that relied on numbers to overwhelm police officers who were trying to prevent a breach of the Capitol Building, and disrupt the proceedings. But for his actions alongside so many others, the riot likely would have failed,” prosecutors wrote.

As it was, the mob attacking the Capitol that day injured more than 100 officers, caused millions in damage and forced members of Congress to flee, halting the ceremonial but necessary certification of electoral votes for some five hours.

Culbertson told FBI agents that “he believed that he had not done anything wrong and was right to be there standing up for his president (Trump). He expressed that the riot at the Capitol ‘felt like a set up’ and blamed the Capitol police officers for allowing his unlawful entry into the building,” prosecutors wrote.

“While (Culbertson) did not wear tactical gear or engage in violence, the true strength of the rioters was in the mob’s sheer numbers, and he added to that power,” prosecutors wrote.

Culbertson’s attorney, Blanchard, wrote that her client was remorseful and “promptly accepted responsibility for his actions.”

Blanchard wrote that Culbertson had been a hard-working man all his life and in September 2022 had been in a motorcycle accident in which he had broken numerous bones. Injuries from that incident continue to hamper his ability to work as a painter, she wrote.

These days, he “has no desire to be involved in any type of political activity,” Blanchard wrote.

As of October, nearly 1,200 people from nearly every state in the country had been arrested for offenses committed in and around the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia. Of those, approximately 660 have pleaded guilty. Another 122 have been found guilty after contested trials.

Twenty-three people from South Carolina have been arrested so far in Capitol riot cases. Of those, 18 have pleaded guilty. Sentences have ranged from probation to house arrest to 44 months in prison. Charges against five other people are pending.

Trump continues to assert that Democrats stole the election although more than 60 lawsuits, an FBI investigation and numerous recounts of votes in various states have so far turned up no evidence of fraud serious enough to have cost him the election.

In Georgia state court, an indictment charges that Trump and others “unlawfully conspired” to change Georgia’s presidential election tallies after the November 2020 election.

In District of Columbia federal court, a federal indictment charges that after the November 2020 election, Trump and close allies conspired to mount a secret campaign to overturn Biden’s victory in the presidential election. He knowingly made false claims about voter fraud and mounted various schemes to undermine the legitimate results. Trump urged people to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell,” the indictment said.

Trump has said he is innocent of the various criminal charges of conspiracy against him in state and federal court.

The Gallmans, with whom Culbertson traveled to Washington, each received 18 months of probation, a fine of $1,000, and $500 in restitution. Also, the Gallmans were each required to complete 50 hours of community service.

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