A North Carolina man who came to Washington armed with guns and threatened to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the day after the Jan. 6 riot was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years and four months in prison. Cleveland Meredith Jr. had planned to attend President Donald Trump’s rally in Washington on Jan. 6, but a vehicle breakdown caused him to arrive after the riot had ended. He remained in Washington at a hotel and sent his uncle a text the day after the insurrection using a misogynistic term to describe the House Speaker and saying he was thinking of heading to her speech and “putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.”
The comments concerned his uncle, who contacted Meredith’s mother. His mother, who was alarmed by her son’s extremist social media postings and knew he had been experiencing mental health difficulties, called the FBI.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the text threatening to shoot Pelosi wasn’t the only alarming comment he made and rejected a suggestion that Meredith’s statements were in jest. “They cannot be erased by adding LOL on the end,” Jackson said.
Meredith, who has been jailed for the last 11 months, tearfully said he was out of control the day after the riot, expressed embarrassment over his arrest and offered an apology to Pelosi. “I know what I did was wrong,” said the 53-year-old Meredith, who lives in Hayesville, North Carolina.
Approximately 700 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot at the U.S. Capitol. About 150 of them have pleaded guilty. More than 20 defendants have been sentenced to jail or prison terms or to time already served behind bars. Over a dozen others received home confinement sentences.
Meredith brought a handgun and a military style rifle to Washington, bragged in a text about having thousands of rounds of armor-piercing bullets, profanely said “Burn DC” to the ground when a friend told him the Capitol had been breached and sent a text saying he was going to collect the heads of traitors.
The day after the riot, Meredith used misogynistic language when referring to Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and said he may go to her office to shoot her. He is accused of head-butting and punching a person who was in a vehicle that was blocking his truck. And he said he thought he was going to run over Pelosi, Jackson said.
Meredith’s lawyers argued there was no serious intent for Meredith to follow through on the threats, noting he sent the messages to family and friends.
Family members say Meredith was immersed in the QAnon movement, which is centered on the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump was fighting a cabal of Satan-worshipping, child sex trafficking cannibals.
The judge said the mental health problems in Meredith’s life were present before Joe Biden won office or QAnon emerged. She said Meredith previously had been involved in assaults and a road rage incident.
Billeaud reported from Phoenix.