A college student from Hurricane charged in the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol on Monday became the first of those charged in the state to admit their guilt for actions that day.
Gracyn Dawn Courtright was charged in federal court after she was identified through her own social media posts of the event, which saw hundreds of people force their way into the building, causing Congress to temporarily stop its progress in certifying presidential election results.
Courtright appeared virtually Monday before Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper in Washington, D.C., and pleaded guilty to knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, a misdemeanor.
Social media posts showed Courtright inside and outside of the Capitol on Jan. 6. The pictures are tagged as being taken in Washington, D.C., a special agent with the FBI said in an affidavit filed with the court.
A witness contacted the FBI to share their private Instagram messages with Courtright, in which they asked if she was at the Capitol. Courtright said she was and she had walked into “the chamber like the senate where desks are [sic].”
A photo appearing to show Courtright in a crowd that clashed with police inside the Capitol was published by The Washington Post, the FBI agent said.
While later reviewing surveillance footage from the incident, Courtright was seen by FBI agents on camera entering the Capitol building via a door. She was seen on the second floor, walking up the steps near the Senate chamber carrying a “Members Only” sign. She carried the sign for several minutes before a law enforcement officer took it away from her.
She left the building about 30 minutes after entering.
Courtright appeared at Monday’s hearing remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. She immediately broke into tears.
“I’m just shaken, I’m sorry,” she told the judge, who appeared to attempt to calm her down by discussing her studies at the University of Kentucky and her extracurricular activities and love for West Virginia University basketball.
Courtright said she withdrew from UK, where she studied mathematical economics, and once her criminal case is handled, she will go before a board that will determine her future with the university.
Federal guidelines call for a sentencing range of up to six months, a $500 to $9,500 fine and up to one year of supervised release.
“I plead guilty,” Courtright said when asked by the judge.
The judge initially set her sentencing for late December, but Courtright said that date wouldn’t give her enough time to go before the university’s board. Another date, 10 a.m. Nov. 16, was set instead.
Cooper asked Courtright to appear in Washington, D.C., in person, but her attorney said Courtright and her family are not vaccinated against COVID-19, and do not plan to be. Courtright said her vaccination status probably will not change by then.
The judge said he would take that into consideration as the sentencing date nears.