Greenwood man given probation for entering U.S. Capitol during insurrection

A Greenwood man accused of illegally entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection will not serve any prison time.

Eric Cantrell, 52, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Monday. He was sentenced by Judge Trevor N. McFadden to three months of probation and was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service in the next three months. He also agreed to pay $500 in restitution and was given an additional $1,000 fine.

As part of the plea agreement, charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; and violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building were dismissed, according to federal court records.

Eric Cantrell was arrested in March 2022 alongside two cousins, Jared Cantrell, 38, and Quentin Cantrell, 54, both of Indianapolis, on charges of illegally entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of President Donald Trump illegally entered the U.S. Capitol and attempted to interrupt the counting of electoral votes that formalized President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

A statement of facts filed in federal court says Cantrell and his cousins threatened to impede the business of Congress and illegally entered the U.S. Capitol building. In videos taken on Jan. 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol, Eric Cantrell is seen with his two cousins walking toward the building from the Stop the Steal rally in Washington. The three men were later captured on security footage entering the U.S. Capitol building, according to court documents.

In another video, Eric Cantrell is seen on the West Terrace of the Capitol helping Quentin Cantrell climb down a wall. He is seen leaving the Capitol grounds in a separate video, court documents show.

In a sentencing memorandum filed last week, federal prosecutors asked for McFadden to sentence Eric Cantrell to 30 days’ home detention as part of a 36-month probation term. They also asked for him to serve 60 hours of community service, along with paying the $500 in restitution.

Federal prosecutors said the 30-day home detention sentence was appropriate because Eric Cantrell reached the Capitol building after “walking through torn scaffolding and past broken barriers,” spending 19 minutes on a Capitol terrace watching events unfold and entered the building through an emergency exit door despite an alarm blaring. One of the goals of the proposed sentence was to act as a deterrence for future crimes, court documents say.

“The attack on the U.S. Capitol building and grounds was an attack on the rule of law,” prosecutors wrote. “As with the nature and circumstances of the offense, this factor supports a sentence of incarceration, as it will in most cases, including misdemeanor cases, arising out of the January 6 riot.”

However, Eric Cantrell’s attorneys argued against him being incarcerated or put on probation because he was in the Capitol for a short period of time — a little more than a minute. He also did not participate in violence, did not destroy evidence, walked through an already opened door, walked around an internal stairway and made no postings on social media, his attorneys wrote in their own sentencing memorandum.

Eric Cantrell did not knowingly ignore commands from police or other officials within the Capitol or its grounds. He attended the rally to express his personal views and had no intent to enter the Capitol, his attorneys said.

“However, in the chaos of the day and despite his reservations, he foolishly followed others through the Upper West Terrace Door — a decision he sincerely regrets,” his attorneys wrote. “His lack of intent to enter is evidenced by the fact that he swiftly exited the building after a little over a minute. ”

He also took responsibility for his actions in a letter submitted to the judge, admitting wrongdoing and expressing “genuine remorse for his conduct.” He regretted “violating the sanctity of the U.S. Capitol” and opposed violence, documents show.

“I regret the act of entering the Capitol, and if I could go back in time, knowing what transpired that day January 6, 2021, I would have never gone near the Capitol building,” Cantrell wrote in the letter. “If I could take back my actions, I would. I sincerely apologize for my actions and taking the time of the court.”