A former Donald Trump supporter, who participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol and testified before the Jan. 6 Committee, was sentenced Thursday to 24 months probation and 100 hours of community service.
Stephen Ayres of Ohio pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building in June.
During a virtual sentencing hearing Thursday, Ayres grew emotional as he expressed remorse for his participation in the Jan. 6 attack, telling Judge John Bates that he wanted to apologize to “the court and the American people.”
“I went down there that day not with the intention to cause any violence or anything like that,” Ayres said. “But I did get caught up on all the stuff online, on Facebook, which ultimately I felt like was steering me in the wrong direction.”
Ayres remarked that he is “over all the division in the country,” and said that he prays every day for all participants in the Jan. 6 riot as well as “officers that are struggling with this” and the families of those who died as a result of the attack on the Capitol.
“I just hope one day I can wake up and not have to live with it everyday, because I do, everyday,” Ayres said.
Ayres’ wife, Hayle, also implored the judge to sentence her husband to probation. She said that if her husband is incarcerated, their kids will “feel that burden, and I don’t want them to.”
“We vowed when we got married that we would never subject our children to a broken home,” Hayle Ayres said. “And if he is incarcerated, we will have broken that vow.”
Last July, Ayres testified in a televised hearing before the Jan. 6 committee, saying that he regrets the trust he placed in Trump's false claims about widespread election fraud in the 2020 election. He said he lost his job and had to sell his house because of his participation in Jan. 6.
“It definitely changed my life, not for the good,” Ayres said. “Definitely not for the better.”
Ayres, who posted an image of a poster featuring a quote from Trump’s December 2020 “will be wild” tweet before the Jan. 6 attack, told the committee that he came to D.C. because he believed the then-president had called him to do so. Ayres said that Trump’s baseless claims about a stolen election made him feel “very upset,” prompting Ayres to believe that “I needed to be down here.”
Ayres told the committee that he got off of social media after his arrest and looked into election-related lawsuits that had been filed, which led him to realize that Trump’s claims about a rigged election were unsubstantiated.
In his congressional testimony, Ayres said he did not expect to go to the Capitol when he showed up to Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse on the morning of Jan. 6. But his thinking changed after Trump’s speech, which included disparaging comments about then-Vice President Mike Pence, Ayres testified.
Ayres said he and other Trump supporters at the rally went to the Capitol because the president had told them to go there.
“We basically were just following what he said,” Ayres said, adding that he believed Trump would march with them to the Capitol and that it was possible for the election results to be overturned.