HUNTINGTON — Former West Virginia delegate Derrick Evans was dubbed a leader of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot who a judge said “egged” people on before sentencing him Wednesday to serve three months in prison.
Evans, 37, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth for his actions Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of then-President Donald Trump supporters breached the Capitol to interrupt Congress as it certified election results. Once Evans’ prison sentence is complete, he will have to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution to the United States.
Evans had previously pleaded guilty to one count of civil disorder, a Class D federal felony.
In sentencing Evans, Lamberth said he got no pleasure from being an enforcer but he felt obligated to send a message to prevent a future riot from occurring. The judge said that, while Evans had already paid a large price for his actions, his involvement as a public servant made the situation worse.
“To me, this has to be considered a serious offense when you’re seeing those tapes before, but when you look at those tapes that you see you’re egging people on; you’re encouraging,” he said. “It’s not just like you walk through the building for 10 minutes.”
Evans told the judge he took full responsibility for his actions, which he said has created a lot of issues in his life, including receiving death threats.
“I made a crucial mistake and I’m now taking full responsibility for that. I’ve let down myself. I’ve let down my community and, most importantly, my family,” he said. “The hardest part of all this is looking in the mirror and knowing my actions have harmed my wife and my children.”
However, after the hearing, Evans returned to Facebook, promising followers to continue to fight for democracy “around every corner.”
Defense attorney Paul Taylor called the event an aberration in his client’s exemplary life, stating that his actions showed a naïveté and lack of experience, wisdom or judgment, but were not criminal.
Taylor said Evans was “shaking in his shoes” Wednesday and had been caught up in the moment and taken aback by seeing a sight like he saw. Taylor said democracy involves a give and take, which involves compromise and flexibility, which can be rough.
“That’s what we saw on Jan. 6, 2021, just how rough and tumble the exercise of democracy and the preservation of democracy can be. It can be painful. It can be ugly, just like the birth of our nation,” Taylor said.
However, U.S. Attorney Kathryn Fifield said Evans’ intentions were more dark than that, before playing several clips from his livestream that day.
While Evans didn’t engage in physical attacks, Fifield said Evans was a voice to encourage and incite the rioting in person and to his large social media following. His enthusiasm for the events was clear, she said.
After days of encouraging followers on Facebook to travel to Washington, D.C., to “stop the steal,” Evans arrived at the Capitol on one of two charter buses that came from Burlington, Ohio. Once there, Evans skipped Trump’s speech and went to the Capitol as the crowd grew.
He streamed the events live to his social media followers for about 1 hour and 19 minutes. The video was viewed by thousands, which made it easy for prosecutors to identify Evans.
Prosecutors said he was a leader because he reported to rioters around him of the violence across the Capitol campus by reading comments left on his stream. Evans also informed them and cheered as rioters entered the Senate floor, encouraging his side to do the same.
The east side got increasingly more violent, in part because of Evans’ voice, Fifield said.
“No rioter was a tourist,” she said. “No rioters’ actions can be completely extricated from the threat presented in the violence and destruction committed by the mob as a whole.”
Evans’ commentary during the video applauded “patriots” breaking into the building, encouraged viewers to get bail money ready and told Capitol Police the rioters were taking the country back whether they liked it or not.
While near rioters who were pulling apart and overturning bike rack barriers at the Capitol, Evans said on the livestream “the peace is over with.”
At one point, Evans moved closer to the East Rotunda doors, joining a mob of rioters pushing against the doors attempting to break in. As rioters sprayed a chemical irritant in the direction of officers, he indicated he knew entering the building would be criminal, stating, “I bet Trump would pardon anybody who gets arrested for goin’ in there.”
As he entered, he shouted his name, stating that he was in the Capitol.
When a protester said it was time to leave, Evans disagreed and later cheered on rioters who had entered the Senate floor.
At about 2:50 p.m. that day, Evans ended his livestream to find his travel group. Shortly after that, he texted a friend, asking them to download his video and asking if he should delete it “so there’s no evidence of what I just did,” before returning home to Wayne County to face reality, Fifield said.
“As he was enthusiastic, as he was knowledgeable, as he was being a leader, as he was being deliberate, he knew almost immediately that he had done something wrong,” she said.
Evans was elected to West Virginia’s House of Delegates in late 2020 and served less than 40 days between being sworn in to office and resigning after the riot.
He has also lost his right to possess a firearm as a result of the case.
Taylor said Evans’ family relies on him heavily and that having him in prison will affect them severely. Evans cooperated with the government and complied with all conditions imposed by the court, he added.
“Mr. Evans’ family needs him more than the government needs to punish him,” the defense attorney said.
Evans will be able to report to prison on his own after an assignment is made by the Bureau of Prisons. Lamberth said he would suggest Evans’ location be as close to home as possible.