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Downstate man who wore Revolutionary War costume and gas mask during Jan. 6 riot sentenced to 2 1/2 months in prison

A Southern man who dressed in Revolutionary War-era garb during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, stole a shield from a retreating police officer, then joined a mob threatening to break into the U.S. House of Representatives chamber while members took refuge inside, has been sentenced to 2 1/2 months in prison.

Derek Nelson, 31, of Danville pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor count of entering or remaining in a locked building or grounds. Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington, that the “indelible” image of Nelson and his companion as “willing soldiers of chaos” epitomized the damage done to “the perceived stability of our republic.”

Federal prosecutors say the photo shows Derek Nelson and Derek Dodder wearing goggles and respirators as they stand in front of the main entrance to the U.S. House of Representatives on January 6, 2021.

U.S. District Court Records

Nelson’s attorneys say his head in 2021 “was full of nonsense, dissatisfaction and conspiracy theories,” but now “his sole focus is his love for God and family, respect for the rule of law and regret for his actions.”

Nelson is one of nearly 50 high-profile Illinoisans facing federal criminal charges in connection with the attack on the Capitol, which interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes and prompted a wide-ranging criminal investigation.

Prosecutors say Nelson was joined at the Capitol by Derek Dodder of Nevada. The feds say the men are former Marines, though prosecutors have called Nelson’s separation from the military “other than honorable.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Nelson was wearing a colonial blue peacoat, a tricorn hat, and a white scarf. His Chicago defense attorneys — Todd Pugh, Chelsy Van Overmeiren, and Jonathan Brayman — say he has participated in live action role playing events such as Renaissance Fairs and Civil War reconstructions.

But on the day of the riot, when someone asked him why he and others in colonial dress were there, Nelson replied, “To start a revolution. Why are you here?”

Nelson and Dodder brought respirators and goggles to the Capitol and put them on as police began using chemical gas.

Nelson joined the crowd that was trying to break into the Capitol. At one point, he crossed paths with a retreating officer holding a riot shield, grabbed the shield and lowered his arm, trying to block it with his body. The officer dropped the shield, and Nelson helped her get it into his hands. another rioter.

Nelson and Dodder entered the Capitol at 2:16 p.m., records show. They went to the Rotunda, where they laughed and celebrated — and where Nelson raised his middle finger.

They set out to go to the House Chamber, but stopped on the way to look out a window at the officers below. Nelson told Dodder, “Hurt them. We’ll hurt them, boys.”

The men then spent at least 10 minutes outside the House chamber, donning respirators and goggles as police fired tear gas.

They remained in the building until 3:04 p.m.

Nelson’s attorneys say he got married in 2022 and is now “reborn” into a new family. They claimed that “millions of Americans believed the 2020 presidential election was stolen by voter fraud” on Jan. 6, 2021, and Nelson was among those “lured by a naive but misguided sense of patriotism.”