January 6 rioter: Trump, media stoked what happened

Pictures of Maryann Mooney Rondon and Rafael Rondon inside the Capitol building, presented in...
Pictures of Maryann Mooney Rondon and Rafael Rondon inside the Capitol building, presented in court documents(FBI Criminal Complaint)
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 11:42 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) -The lawyer for a north country woman who participated in the January 6 riot says former President Donald Trump “constantly stoked the fires, claiming there was an organized effort from his adversaries to ‘steal’ the election.”

Supporters of then-President Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the race for president.

Maryann Mooney-Rondon of Watertown faces sentencing in federal court for “aiding and abetting” the obstruction of an official proceeding - in other words, what Congress was doing on January 6.

She also faces sentencing for helping to steal a laptop computer from then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Mooney-Rondon’s lawyer, in legal papers filed in federal court, singles out both Trump and conservative media.

“In the period leading up to the election, perhaps reading the political tea-leaves, the former president claimed were he to lose the election, this could only happen if election fraud were to take place,” lawyer Peter Cooper writes.

“This meme was bombarded across right-wing media.”

After the election, Cooper writes, “In the wake of the result, an explosion of frenzy followed with court cases, recounts, protests of cheating screamed from the rooftops. The new meme of “Stop the Steal” took over the airwaves.”

Still, Mooney-Rondon didn’t intend to do anything wrong by going to Washington on January 6, Cooper writes.

“Rather this was viewed as a last opportunity to see and hear the outgoing president.”

Cooper writes that Mooney-Rondon and her adult son, Raphael, attended then-President Trump’s January 6 rally on the Ellipse, when Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol.

“As they joined the scene at the Capitol, the crowd had reached critical mass. People were packed together like sardines. Maryann was afraid,” Cooper writes.

“She was in a strange town with the only person she knew right in front of her. She was afraid of getting separated. She realized her phone had no service. If she lost Rafael she had no idea how she would ever find him in this mêlée. As the crowd pushed forward, she held on to his backpack as tight as she could. She remembers everything being a blur.

“One minute they were outside on the terrace, the next she was inside. To his day, she is uncertain how that happened,” Cooper writes.

Cooper argues Mooney-Rondon had no plan to enter the Capitol - “She was swept in while clinging to her son for dear life.”

Once inside, Cooper writes Mooney-Rondon was confused about where she was, and “found herself” in then-Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi’s office, where a man yelled at her to give him her gloves, as he stole a laptop.

Mooney-Rondon and her son fled shortly after. In their hotel room, they watched reports of what had happened “and the feeling that things would never be the same again was inescapable.”

“We ask the Court to take note that Ms. Mooney-Rondon is one of a small group of people who despite having gone down the regrettable road of entering the Capitol realized it was not the place to linger and got out as quickly as possible,” Cooper writes.

Cooper notes that Mooney-Rondon accepts responsibility for what she did on January 6, “despite a lack of any underlying malevolence, or any preconceived plan to alter the election, or even to fight like hell.”

(Former President Trump encouraged supporters January 6 to “fight like hell” or “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”)

Cooper argues Mooney-Rondon should be sentenced to six months of home confinement. Prosecutors have urged the judge to sentence her to nearly four years in prison.

As part of the court record, Mooney-Rondon has letters of support from family members and friends, including two public figures - Julie Lyndaker Robinson, the mayor of Croghan, and Glenn Curry, local talk radio host.

Mooney-Rondon and Raphael Rondon were to be sentenced Tuesday, but that sentencing has been postponed.