On Jan. 6, 2021, the day after meeting up with a Tinder date in Alexandria, Virginia, Jeffrey Schaefer was watching TV at her apartment when he saw scenes of rioters at the U.S. Capitol.
Schaeffer didn’t waste any time.
He supported President Donald Trump’s so-called “Stop the Steal” rally in nearby Washington, D.C., but decided to relax at his date’s home instead of attending.
Once he saw the mayhem, Schaeffer pivoted and took an Uber to the scene. The 34-year-old Milton, Delaware, resident didn’t just watch the action, however.
He saw Capitol police officers fighting off the rioters attempting to breach the building. So he climbed a short wall to get closer to the entrance, walked in through a broken window, and spent the next 28 minutes chanting and marching with the insurrectionists, taking photos and recording videos throughout.
After leaving, Schaefer watched rioters destroy CNN’s camera equipment and later bragged that he encouraged the damage.
Over the next week, Schaefer posted images on Facebook about the insurrection, noting that he’d “been tear gassed 10 times” inside the Capitol.
He cursed CNN, reiterated the widely disproven theory that Democrats “stole the election” for fellow Delawerean Joe Biden, and complained that “they’re calling a few impassioned people who took selfies an insurrection, Gimme a break.”
Now, nearly two years later, Schaefer will be going to federal prison for a month. He’ll also pay $2,500 in restitution.
Schaefer ‘willingly joined with other rioters’
Schaefer, who runs a Sussex County-based company that provides party buses, limousines, and other vehicles for special occasions, was charged with four misdemeanor crimes this January — a year after the deadly rioting at the building Biden called America’s “cradle of liberty.”
Federal prosecutors in D.C. charged him with entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
In August, Schaefer pleaded guilty to the parading charge in exchange for the other charges being dropped.
Although sentencing guidelines called for probation and no prison time, in her sentencing memo Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve argued for 30 days behind bars, $2,500 in fines and fees, two years of probation, and 500 hours of community service for Schaefer.
Eve cited “Schaefer’s participation in a riot that actually succeeded in halting the congressional certification” of Biden’s victory over Trump.
The prosecutor also noted several “critical aggravating”’ factors against Schaefer, including that he arrived “knowing that a riot was underway” and scaled a wall and entered through a broken window.
“Although he may not have intended to enter the Capitol, or so he has claimed, his actions proved that he willingly joined with other rioters,” she wrote.
“His form of protest included chanting his views on Congress’ intent to certify the election of President Biden and Vice President Harris, as well as roaming through the Capitol.”
Eve also cited the fact that Schaefer shared his views about the election on social media before and after the insurrection, including videos and photos he took.
Schaefer soon deleted the post, though, and told investigating FBI agents he did so because he did not feel “comfortable” having them in the public sphere. Eve called the deletions “an obvious effort to avoid the consequences of his actions.”
‘Groomed him to believe he was saving democracy’
Schaefer and defense attorney Joshua Insley did not return WHYY News’ calls for comment. But in court papers, the defense had argued for probation and a small fine, saying Schaefer accepted his responsibility and didn’t participate in any actual violence.
Like many other insurrectionists who have been arrested, Schaefer cited the influence of Trump and other Republican leaders.
“He was guided and urged every step of the way by no less of an authority than the president of the United States and a majority of Republican senators and congressmen that continued to repeat the ‘Big Lie’ that the election had been stolen by the Democrats,” Insley wrote.
“Mr. Schaefer has been subjected to public ridicule and scorn for his participation in the Capitol riots,” the lawyer wrote.
Insley pointed out that “the well-financed organizers of the riots” didn’t pay for Schaefer’s defense, and Trump didn’t offer any of the people who breached the Capitol a pardon before leaving office two weeks later.
“Schaefer was left to fend for himself,” Insley wrote, “when he was no longer of use to the people who groomed him to believe he was saving democracy.”
Get daily updates from WHYY News!