Valley man sentenced to probation for role in Jan. 6 DC riot
The Champion man charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C., received 24 months of probation from a federal judge during a sentencing hearing Thursday.
Stephen Ayres, 39, of Carolewood Circle NW, Champion, appeared via video hookup with the U.S. Court, District of Columbia, before Judge John D. Bates, who also ordered Ayres pay $500 restitution to the government and a $25 special court cost
Bates also ordered the defendant to perform 100 hours of community service.
Rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, sought to prevent a joint session of Congress from counting the electoral college votes to formalize the victory of President Joe Biden.
Ayres had pleaded guilty June 8 as part of a plea agreement his lawyer reached with prosecutors in May. Ayres, who was free on a personal bond, had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of committing disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.
Defense attorney Eugene Ohm in an email to the newspaper would not comment about the case, but provided an email for Ayres, who did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
While on a video hookup to the court, Ayres apologized — to the court and to the “American people”
Bates said he believes Ayres has shown genuine remorse and regret for his conduct, including the televised testimony during the summer Ayres made before the House special committee investigating the riot.
“It was a travesty in American history, a shocking attack on our democratic values and institutions,” Bates said. “All who participated in that insurrection, I think it can be called, must be held responsible.”
Ayres told the judge he prays every day for the capital police officers who were attacked.
“I just hope one day I can wake up and not have to live with it every day,” Ayres said.
Following the sentencing, Ayres sent a statement via email.
“I can honestly say the judge’s decision was fair. I was at the Capitol that day. Albeit, I wasn’t violent or destructive, my presence alone was probably enough to sway others to be more bold in their actions. I went down there to join the rally and to peacefully assemble. But as everyone knows, that took a turn for the worse. Unfortunately I got caught up in Trump’s hype and blindly followed him like a lemming, which ultimately led to a team of FBI agents at my door on an early Monday morning putting me in handcuffs while my then 9-year-old son was in the basement doing his school work over Zoom.
“I did lose my home and had to sell it. My wife had to take a year off from nursing school to help deal with all this. I lost a good friend Matthew Perna who was my co-defendant, which is one thing I still struggle with everyday. I think about him numerous times a day now,” Ayres wrote.
In a sentencing memo, the U.S. government had recommended Ayres serve 60 days incarceration.
Ayres, through his attorney Ohm, had asked the court to sentence him to probation and community service.
At the beginning of a 19-page memorandum to the court, Ohm wrote about the ordeal his client went through after his arrest on the federal charges. Ohm said he lost his job as supervisor for KraftMaid Cabinetry in Middlefield, where he had worked for 20 years beginning in high school.
Ohm’s memo also talked about Ayres’ emotional suffering caused by the death of his co-defendant and high school friend Matthew L. Perna, 37, of Sharpsville, Pa., who killed himself in February 2022, after pleading guilty late last year to federal charges connected to the riot.
As terms of the plea deal, the government had dismissed charges against Ayres of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, remaining in a restricted building and disorderly conduct.
The defense memo also talked about Ayres cooperating in the prosecution of others in the aftermath. He also had testified before a special House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
“Ayres did everything that was asked,” Ohm writes.
In its 18-page memo, assistant U.S. Attorney Nihar Moharity — in addition to the short prison term — recommended that Ayres serve one-year of supervised release, do 60 hours of community service and pay $500 in restitution.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.