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N.H. man in Capitol riot avoids jail time, receives probation and fine

In a screenshot from court documents, Thomas Gallagher, of Bridgewater, N.H., throws up his arms whlle looking in the direction of a defensive line of U.S. Capitol Police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the capitol building. (Department of Justice court filing)

A 62-year-old Grafton County man on Wednesday avoided jail time or home confinement for participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as a federal judge said his contrition appeared sincere and that his conduct inside the building was “substantially less severe” than many others charged for their roles in the insurrection.

Bridgewater, N.H., resident Thomas R. Gallagher apologized during the 70-minute sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., telling Judge Carl J. Nichols he wanted to do so in person.

“I’m the type of guy that if you do something, you own up to it. That’s what I’m doing,” Gallagher said during his one-minute speech, according to an audio feed of the proceeding. “I’m apologizing to you, sir, DOJ, (prosecutor Seth) Meinero, Congress, all the police officers involved, the FBI, for any anxiety that I caused them, any fear.”

Gallagher had pleaded guilty in July to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a U.S. Capitol building. Attorneys in court said Gallagher may have been in the Capitol building for about 30 minutes, and was in the Capitol Visitor Center, which is part of the complex, with other rioters for about nine minutes before he was arrested.

Video footage, and the testimony of another participant, indicated that Gallagher had admonished others not to engage in violent or destructive acts, including encouraging one rioter to put down a chair rather than throw it toward police.

Nichols sentenced Gallagher to 24 months probation, $500 restitution, 60 hours of community service and a $10 special assessment, but opted not to impose the one month of home confinement that prosecutors had sought. (The misdemeanor conviction carried a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.)

The judge cited Gallagher’s lack of a criminal record, his remorse, his reputation as a “kind and considerate family-oriented man” and the low risk of recidivism, along with Gallagher’s behavior within the Capitol, as factors in his decision.

“The events of Jan. 6 were exceptionally serious,” Nichols said. “Protesting in the Capitol in a manner that delays the certification of the election throws our entire system of government into disarray and it undermines the stability of our society.

He also noted that Gallagher should have returned to the bus that had brought him from New England to Washington for a rally in support of then-President Donald Trump, rather than entering the Capitol.

“But in comparison to the conduct of many others that day, Mr. Gallagher’s conduct was less severe, and in many ways substantially less severe,” Nichols said.

Meinero had sought three years probation and the one-month home confinement, arguing that there was a need for “both specific and general deterrence.”

He also referenced Gallagher’s pre-sentencing memo in which his defense attorney had cited a friend’s observation that Gallagher had been watching “too much Fox News” during and after the presidential election.

Meinero said there is “still toxic political rhetoric invoked in many parts of the media” and that sentencing also needs to help deter people who might otherwise “fall prey to that kind of rhetoric.”

Prosecutors have asked for some home confinement in similar Capitol riot cases, Meinero said, but Gallagher’s attorney, Sebastian Norton, said that his client had already suffered a “black stain on his reputation” and questioned what purpose home confinement would serve.

“He should not have been in there, and he knows that, but when he was in there, he told others to not be destructive,” Norton said of Gallagher’s time in the Capitol.

Gallagher, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., worked for 32 years for the Department of Defense as a quality control analyst in Andover, Mass., including stints at both the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency. He retired in 2018 and moved to a home near Newfound Lake with his wife, Valerie, and their daughter. Valerie Gallagher accompanied her husband to court.

After the judge imposed the sentence, Norton said Gallagher was prepared to pay the restitution and special assessment before he left the courthouse.