Donna Bissey’s boasts on Facebook about being inside the US Capitol helped secure her conviction
An unvaccinated Capitol rioter who pleaded with a judge not to send her to jail because she was afraid of getting Covid-19 has been sentenced to 14 days behind bars.
QAnon-supporting hairdresser Donna Sue Bissey, 53, pleaded guilty in July to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months’ imprisonment.
According to the Department of Justice, authorities were tipped off after Bissey and her friend Anna Morgan-Lloyd posted photos on Facebook from inside the Capitol building.
One photo showed the pair had a caption which read “Inside Capitol Building.”
Bissey commented under the photo that it had been the “best f***ing day ever!! I’ll never forget. We got into the Capitol Building.”
Morgan-Lloyd was sentenced to three years of probation, $500 in restitution and 40 hours of community service in June after pleading guilty to the same charge Ms Bissey pleaded to.
Last week an attorney for Bissey wrote to the judge to say her life would be at risk if she was sentenced to jail time.
“Simply put, if Ms Bissey is incarcerated at the DC Jail or in the BOP, which has seen 259 inmate deaths and over 43,000 infections from COVID-19, she is extremely likely to suffer severe illness or even death,” the attorney wrote.
He added that his client has not helped her chances of fighting the virus by refusing to get vaccinated.
Prosecutors have argued that a rioter’s statements, in person or on social media, should be considered when fashioning an appropriate sentence.
And the federal prosecutor on Tuesday cited Bissey’s online support for QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
But they also have said Bissey’s was a “rare case” in which they agreed to recommend probation instead of home detention or prison, based on her early acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with law enforcement.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan instead sentenced her to 14 days of incarceration and 60 hours of community service, stressing she did so because Bissey had celebrated and bragged about her participation in what amounted to an attempted overthrow of the government.
“The fact that she subscribes to bizarre conspiracy theories, that’s her right. That’s something she is allowed to do as an American,” Judge Chutkan said.
The most serious criminal cases arising from the massive investigation are against leaders and members of two far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.
Some are charged with plotting coordinated attacks on the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
But several QAnon adherents also played prominent roles in the riot, and the conspiracy theory appeared to galvanise many others who joined the mob.
Long before the attack, many experts warned of a growing threat of violence driven by disinformation and conspiracy theories like QAnon and its predecessor, the conspiracy dubbed “pizzagate.”
Justice Department prosecutor Joshua Rothstein said Bissey appears to be an avid consumer of other conspiracy theories, including that the coronavirus is a “hoax pandemic” and that the Covid-19 vaccine is part of a Jewish plot to murder people.
She also appeared to believe the pandemic was foreshadowed by “predictive programming” during the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Agencies contributed to this report