A supporter of former President Donald Trump who attacked police officers with a fire extinguisher during the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 told a judge that he now realizes that the former president and those acting on his behalf were lying when they claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Robert Scott Palmer, a Florida man who sprayed officers with a fire extinguisher and then chucked the fire extinguisher at the police line when the officers were under siege from the mob (all while he was wearing an American flag sweatshirt bearing Trump’s name), was arrested and charged in March, just 12 days after he was identified in a HuffPost story. He pleaded guilty in October, and federal prosecutors are seeking a sentence of more than five years behind bars, which would be the longest yet in connection with the Capitol riot.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, a former public defender who has sentenced Jan. 6 defendants to more time than federal prosecutors have requested and has worried that some Capitol rioters are getting slaps on the wrist, will sentence Palmer on Friday. In a letter to Chutkan released in connection with his court case, Palmer wrote that he now realizes he was lied to by Trump and his advocates.
Since the Jan. 6 attack, Palmer claimed, he had come to realize that “Trump supporters were lied to by those that at the time had great power, meaning the then sitting president, as well as those acting on his behalf.”
“They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny,” Palmer wrote. “Little did I realize that they were the tyrannical ones desperate to hold on to power at any cost even by creating the chaos they knew would happen with such rhetoric.” Palmer wrote that he offered his “most sincere and deepest apologies” for believing in Trump’s lies.
Palmer’s words in many ways echo the statements of Danny Rodriguez, the Trump supporter who drove a stun gun into the neck of D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone on Jan. 6. Rodriguez, after being arrested by the FBI, called himself a “fucking piece of shit” for attacking Fanone and “so stupid” for believing he and other Trump supporters would take over the U.S. Capitol and ensure Trump remained president.
“Are we all that stupid that we thought we were going to go do this and save the country and it was all going to be fine after? We really thought that. That’s so stupid, huh?” Rodriguez said during his interview with the FBI.
Even so, such a dramatic political reversal would still be surprising coming from Palmer, whose Facebook page illustrated just how invested he was in Trump and his lies about the widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential vote. As HuffPost reported in March, his page was “littered with posts spreading false information about Biden’s election, denigrating the Black Lives Matter movement and downplaying the need for COVID-19 safety protocols.”
After the Capitol attack, Palmer even posted a clip of Bill O’Reilly, who argued that Trump wasn’t responsible for inciting the violent attack on the Capitol that Palmer participated in on Jan. 6. He continued posting memes about the election he thought had been stolen.
“In the event of a Civil War, I’m not afraid of the 81 Million Biden Voters,” he posted on Jan. 12. “Half are dead and don’t exist!”
As prosecutors noted in their own memo, Palmer seemed to strike a much different tone just two months ago in October, after he was incarcerated following his guilty plea. That’s when he had a friend post a fundraiser calling him “Patriot Rob” and claiming that he only went “on the defense” after he was hit by a less lethal projectile fired by police. (In fact, prosecutors say, Palmer wasn’t shot with a less-lethal round until later, when he approached police “screaming obscenities” and then threw a pole “like a spear” at officers.)
Palmer’s defense attorney called that an “ill-thought-out decision” in his own sentencing memo and conceded that Palmer “did distort the timeline of the events and falsely claimed to have acted in defense during the events at issue,” but had the website removed and refunded the donations after “realizing the idiocy of his decision.”
A number of Palmer’s friends and family members wrote letters on his behalf, and his lawyer is seeking a sentence of 24 months behind bars.
The FBI has made about 700 arrests in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, with hundreds of more cases expected.