Christian Secor, who led a campus group at UCLA with white supremacist ties, was sentenced Wednesday to 42 months in prison for storming the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, after admitting he entered the Senate chamber that day and sat in Vice President Mike Pence's chair.
"You are in part responsible for the trauma . . . experienced that day," Judge Trevor N. McFadden told Secor. But he said Secor did not deserve the nearly five-year sentence requested by prosecutors because he didn't "personally injure anyone," and because he is only 24 years old.
"Many young people have made mistakes in their early 20s," McFadden said.
Secor, who pleaded guilty in May to obstructing an official proceeding, was among the first wave that broke into the Capitol. He went into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office suite, where McFadden noted staffers were "cowering . . . terrified" in another room.
Secor then joined a group of about 40 people pushing against three Capitol Police officers guarding a set of doors on the east side of the Rotunda. The door gave way, allowing more demonstrators to flood in - including members of the Oath Keepers who are on trial in the same courthouse. From there, Secor went into the Senate chamber and sat in Pence's chair.
Secor bragged about the violence after the riot, then deleted his social media accounts and destroyed his phone, he admitted.
Throughout, Secor wore a shirt and carried a flag inside the Capitol advertising "America First," movement started by far-right commentator Nick Fuentes, described by prosecutors as "a public figure known for making racist statements, celebrating fascism and promoting white supremacy." Secor founded a campus "America First" group at UCLA and on social media described himself as a fascist and referenced neo-Nazi literature.
The government is "very concerned about" Secor's "extremist beliefs," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall said in court, because "specific to January 6," Fuentes "was encouraging the kind of behavior we then saw."
Fuentes said after the 2020 election that Trump supporters should "storm every state capitol," Paschall noted. Fuentes, who spoke outside the Capitol the day of the riot, was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating Jan. 6 but has not been charged with a crime.
McFadden said he "understood the government's concern" about Secor's "involvement in an organization that has pretty ugly sides to it." But he said "the fact that UCLA allows them to be an official club mitigates some of the concerns I have." He said he didn't think the school would allow the Ku Klux Klan to have a campus chapter.
Secor's attorney, Brandi Harden, agreed, saying "it can't be some untoward association" when "there's an 'America First' chapter at his school."
The "America First Bruins" club Secor founded in early 2020 with two others was controversial at UCLA. A report from the school's Luskin Center for History and Policy found that multiple students had asked the office that approves student groups to intervene because of Secor's racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic comments. Members of UCLA's Republican club also reported Secor to campus police. According to the report, they were told the school could not act without violating Secor's free speech rights. Secor was ultimately banned from Bruins Republicans, the report said.
America First Bruins is no longer a registered student group, a UCLA spokesman said.
Paschall said she was also concerned about the number of guns Secor had, and the fact that he spent $3,300 on firearms in the year before the 2020 election.
In a search six weeks after the riot, law enforcement found three knives and a baton in Secor's vehicle, mace and body armor plates in his bedroom, and a privately manufactured "ghost gun" in a gun safe in the house. They also found a registered .22-caliber rifle and video of him pointing a rifle inside his home. The weapon in the video was not registered or recovered. After Jan. 12, he told someone asking about guns that "we are in a civil war," and he searched online for information on whether a gun owner can be identified by the weapon's serial number.
Secor "enjoys the ability to put together guns in a legal way," Harden said, but "was never and is not now a person who is violent." She called his online comments "just chatter."
Secor spoke in court only to say that a text conversation with a friend in February 2021 about "ultra secret" "future operations," described by Paschall as concerning, was "a potential financial business idea."