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Mother and son January 6 rioters are sentenced

The U.S. Capitol is seen during a candlelight vigil where speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer D-MD and other democrats attended on the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on Thursday, January 6, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A mother and son who helped steal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's laptop during the Jan, 6 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, have been sentenced to house arrest.

Maryann Mooney-Rondon and her son, Rafael Rondon, were part of the mob that stormed the capitol following an adversarial speech by former President Donald Trump. Mooney-Rondon was sentenced to a year of house arrest and her son to 18 months.

"It's jail," but at home," the mother said. Both will be on probation for five years.

The two were part of a group that had gathered to hear Donald Trump speak following his election defeat. The House was to certify the election results and declare Joseph R. Biden, Jr. the next president. Trump declared, falsely, that "we won the election in a landslide," and has been accused of inciting a riot among the crowd that became increasingly agitated as Trump continued to exhort them on Jan. 6.

"We're going to walk down to the Capitol and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them," he implored. "If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore." Moments later, the protest turned violent when the mob overran Capitol police and stormed the building, scaling walls, smashing windows and doors and entering the U.S. House chamber.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, holds the gavel as she calls the House to order on the first day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, holds the gavel as she calls the House to order on the first day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Trump was well aware that some of the protesters were armed.

Rafael Rondon admitted to the FBI he helped a man who was trying to rip cords out of Pelosi's laptop, which she used for Zoom meetings that day.

Steven Engel, former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Attorney General, and Richard Donoghue, former acting Deputy Attorney General testify in the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a public hearing to discuss its findings of a year-long investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 23, 2022. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI

"I assisted him a little bit," Rafael Rondon said, "and that was probably stupid of me." He later told the FBI that he wished he had taken a photo of a rioter on the Senate dais, because "that s--- was f---ing hilarious."

Rafael Rondon said before he was sentenced that he would "never" engage in similar behavior in the future, and that he was acting very immaturely. "I made a stupid mistake," he said. "I realize that."

Mooney-Rondon, who owns a medical billing company, admitted that she helped a man who took the laptop, and gave him gloves so he would not leave fingerprints. The scene was captured in one of the videos fellow rioters recorded on their smartphones. The man who took the laptop has not been arrested.

Mooney-Rondon said she had "a very bad lapse of judgment" on Jan. 6. "I'm a very - generally - measured, calculated person. I think things through. How the heck that happened, I really don't have a clue," she said.

Mooney-Rondon called herself "a humbled woman" and asked the court for mercy before her sentencing.

"I was the adult in the room, and I failed," she said. "I have brought embarrassment to my family."

"If we had to do it all over, we would have just stayed home and watched from the safety of our living room," she continued.

Mooney-Rondon and her son were seen in videos wearing emergency escape hoods which they later admitted stealing. The hoods prompted the armchair investigators to call the "AirheadLady" and "AirheadBoy" before they had been identified by the FBI.

U.S. District Judge Jia Cobb, who sentenced the pair, said it was a "difficult" case and that neither of the defendants were criminal masterminds. "I'm not suggesting that you two are stupid or idiots," she said, but she said they engaged in "juvenile" behavior.

"I just think that they were acting very stupidly," Cobb said. "No offense." She said she was giving them a "significant break."

Rafael Rondon has faced weapons charges in the past. His mother, when asked why she went along with the scheme to steal Pelosi's laptop, said she was aiding people whom she believed were part of a broader plan and that she went along with them because she was "scared" and that it was "the easiest thing to do."

The government sought 51 months in prison for Rafael Rondon and 46 months in prison for his mother.