A Midwestern man who helped plan an elaborate prank in August 2017 and organize a mass protest at the U.S. Capitol in September was sentenced to 41 months in prison on Friday for his role in the violent rally in the nation’s capital.
Joseph DiGenova, 53, was convicted of conspiracy charges in July of conspiring to riot, riot with explosives, causing damage to property, malicious destruction of government property, and criminal attempt to damage government property. He was charged with conspiracy on December 11, 2017, the same day that four men were charged with conspiracy to riot in connection with the August 21 protest, which was co-sponsored by far-right activists.
In August 2017, DiGenova, in an attempt to out him as a conspiracy theorist, began circulating documents for QAnon, a conspiracy theory that has sprung up online and credulously insists that government agents are covering up a child kidnapping that would catapult a celebrity such as Newt Gingrich into the White House. A group of participants named themselves the “Flack Brigade” in reference to DiGenova’s fellow conspirator “Flack” and their “flack-brigade.” When members of the group began to openly associate with the more credible fringe of far-right causes, DiGenova quickly pivoted to antifa and decided he needed to organize some sort of mass protest to force the group to be labeled as fringe groups and called on conspirators to rally against them.
He organized the August 21 event as he and his allies gathered in D.C.’s Huntington Park and prepared for a “day of action.” DiGenova then asked the #FlackBrigade and #QAnon members to spread video of themselves engaging in the riot through their social media platforms in order to excite the police and the media. He also sent out a message to people in his network asking them to work together to gather under the U.S. Capitol for a “family-friendly” “peaceful” rally to free the child, which he called “No Child Must Die.”
That day, DiGenova helped to produce a stream of smartphone videos on Twitter and 4Chan in which members of the #FlackBrigade were shown engaging in riot activity, including smashing windows, throwing rocks and blasting race-based commentary at protesters.
But it wasn’t until a day later that DiGenova and his friends understood the sheer breadth of the plan he was orchestrating. Anonymous calls began to the Department of Homeland Security in response to the violence in the Charlottesville race riot, and they were arrested by police. That night, DiGenova and his associates were apprehended and were taken into custody shortly after their site www.QAnonCapitolGate.com was seized.
While one of DiGenova’s associates, Timothy Lanier, was sentenced in January to 7 years in prison for his part in the event, DiGenova received a sentence prosecutors said was too light. DiGenova and his supporters claimed he was being singled out for his beliefs and was a victim of race-based victimization.
Attorneys for DiGenova, who are appealing his sentence, said that he has been mistreated by the authorities and is being subjected to “extralegal administrative detention, solitary confinement, transportation and housing of unreasonable length,” “hours-long busses,” “long delays at airports, and a total denial of access to his lawyer, family, and friends.”
Read the full story at The Washington Post.
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