Arms raised in victory, insurrectionist and Winchester resident Edward Eugene Hemenway II stood atop a U.S. military vehicle outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 rebellion.
A smiling Hemenway had just spent 17 minutes inside the Capitol with a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The mob stormed the Capitol, assaulted police, trashed congressional offices and succeeded in delaying the Electoral College certification of new President Joe Biden. Four people died that day — one was shot by a Capitol police officer, one was trampled by the mob and two had heart attacks; 140 police officers were injured. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was hit with chemical spray by rioters, died of a stroke the next day.
But Hemenway, who took a selfie in the Capitol wearing a camouflage Trump 2020 cap and raising his middle finger, didn’t participate in the violence or vandalism. And he quickly cooperated with the FBI and expressed remorse. In an Oct. 6 letter to federal Judge Tanya C. Chutkin, Hemenway said he was “stupid and wrong” for invading the Capitol.
“I am very sorry for any trouble or psychological stress that I might have caused anyone that day,” Hemenway wrote. “I had no idea that anyone was even in the Capitol. If I had that knowledge beforehand, I would have definitely not entered.”
Hemenway, 38, of the 900 block of East Cork Street, pleaded guilty in July to to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building and faced up to six months imprisonment. He sought probation rather than imprisonment, but he didn’t get it. On Wednesday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, Chutkin sentenced Hemenway to 45 days in federal prison and 60 hours of community service. The sentence was above the 30-day sentence sought by the government, according to William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
In a letter to Chutkin, defense attorney Meredith M. Ralls had sought leniency for Hemenway. She said he invaded the Capitol spontaneously and had gone to Washington, D.C., with his cousin Robert Bauer and their wives for a sightseeing tour before deciding to take part in the “Stop the Steal” rally featuring Trump. She said Hemenway became caught up in an “infectious group mentality” inherent to riots and regrets it. “Mr. Hemenway understands first hand how group think and crowd psychology can influence a person to make decisions that he would not normally make, and wants nothing to do with such dangers in the future,” Ralls wrote.
In an interview, Ralls said Chutkin’s sentence was overly punitive. “I don’t think he should have gone to jail at all,” she said.
At the rally, the Republican Trump, who was impeached for instigating the insurrection, falsely said Democrats had stolen the election from him and said, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Franchesca Hemenway, Hemenway’s wife, said her husband and Bauer’s participation in the uprising was just them obeying Trump.
“When Trump asked them to march down to Pennsylvania Avenue and meet him at the Capitol, they blindly obliged,” she wrote in a letter to Chutkin seeking leniency for her husband. “The president of the United States at that time openly spoke on the podium and asked his supporters to go to the Capitol. They thought the former president would be behind them.”
Prosecutors countered that Hemenway, a long-haul trucker and father of two young children, wasn’t a victim of circumstances and was well aware an insurrection was underway. In a sentencing memorandum to Chutkin, they noted Bauer told FBI agents he and Hemenway entered the Capitol to “occupy the space” and screamed “Stop the steal!” with the other rioters.
Prosecutors also noted Hemenway told the FBI he saw overturned bicycle racks and a “Do not enter” sign before entering the Capitol and saw a rioter break into a congressional office.
“A mob isn’t a mob without the numbers. The people who were committing those violent acts did so because they had the safety of numbers,” said the memorandum written by assistant U.S. attorney Elizabeth C. Kelley and Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing D. Phillips. “Make no mistake, Hemenway was not a mere tourist that day.”
Prosecutors also questioned the sincerity of Hemenway’s expressions of remorse, noting he posed for a photo atop the vehicle after leaving the Capitol. “His remorse came when he realized he was in trouble,” they said.
Kelley and Phillips also noted Hemenway has a violent criminal record. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to sexual battery and criminal confinement — a rape charge was dismissed — and was sentenced to three years with two years suspended. After being released, he violated probation and was imprisoned from 2008 to 2011. They said he’s been off parole since 2013.