Home detention, not prison, for Jan. 6 rioter after judge says autism played role in crime

A Maryland man who took part in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol avoided prison and was sentenced to eight months of home detention after a federal judge ruled the man’s autism played a role in the crimes.

Prosecutors initially sought almost five years in prison for Nicholas Rodean, of Frederick, who had used a flagpole to break a window at the Capitol, which others eventually climbed through. Rodean had also wielded a hatchet.

In July, he was convicted on seven counts, including destruction of government property, disorderly conduct in a government building and physical violence on restricted grounds.

During Wednesday’s sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden agreed with the defense argument that Rodean’s condition made him susceptible to influence by the mob.

“I believe your Asperger’s syndrome is significant to what you did and mitigates blame,” said McFadden.

The judge called Rodean a “maniacal rule follower,” whose susceptibility to charismatic people because of the condition led him to be part of the rioting group.

Asperger’s syndrome, a neurodevelopment disorder, is a type of autism spectrum disorder.

In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Justice Department had asked for 57 months of prison, stating, “There is no indication that he holds any regrets regarding his participation in the riot that day.”

However, during Wednesday’s hearing, federal prosecutors requested a 21-month sentence.

Defense attorney Charles Burnham had asked the judge to consider his client’s mental health and a doctor’s evaluation that found prison would be dangerous for his client.

The judge told Rodean others who had committed similar crimes had been sentenced to prison.

Rodean apologized: “I’m really sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to commit a crime; I was just following everyone else in the Capitol.”

“I’m giving you a real break here,” McFadden warned. “This is your only chance — if you get in trouble again, I will lock you up.”

Rodean was sentenced to five years of probation, including 240 days of home detention, and ordered to pay $2,048 in restitution.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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