A Chicago police officer who entered the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, in his police sweatshirt and was later convicted of four misdemeanors by a D.C. jury, was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days of home detention and three years of probation.
Karol Chwiesiuk, 32, remains on the Chicago force on unpaid leave, a police spokesman said Wednesday. Prosecutors said he is now working as a part-time security officer. His sister Agnieszka Chwiesiuk, 30, who joined Chwiesiuk on his journey to D.C. and then inside the Capitol, received an identical sentence from U.S. District Judge Ana C. Reyes.
Chwiesiuk took multiple selfies both inside and outside the grounds, including some on Jan. 5 standing in front of signs noting that the grounds were closed. The Chwiesiuks opted for a jury trial on their misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct charges. They claimed they did not know they weren’t permitted in the Capitol, though when they entered shortly before 3 p.m., mayhem was rampant and they climbed through a broken door.
“I just find it unbelievable,” Reyes told the brother and sister, “that you two didn’t know you shouldn’t be in the Capitol.”
Prosecutors asked Reyes to sentence Karol Chwiesiuk to 12 months of incarceration and to order Agnieszka Chwiesiuk to serve eight months, asking the judge to enhance the brother’s sentence because of multiple misstatements on the witness stand in his trial. Karol Chwiesiuk testified that he didn’t know what was happening at the Capitol that day, despite advance notices on his phone of protests at the Capitol, and that he saw no signs that anything was amiss that day, despite smashed windows and hand-to-hand combat between police and rioters.
A jury convicted the brother and sister in August of four counts of disorderly conduct on restricted grounds and trespassing, but prosecutors noted that the two remained defiant. Records show Agnieszka Chwiesiuk wrote on a fundraising page that she was arrested “as part of the January 6th witch hunt” and that the “prosecution is politically motivated.”
“It was still rather tame,” Karol Chwiesiuk told the judge Wednesday, “compared to the rioting I witnessed as a police officer in 2020” during the protests over the police killing of George Floyd. “My work desensitized me to rioters’ behavior.”
Reyes declined to increase the sentence because of his testimony, saying she would not penalize him for going to trial or taking the stand. She made it clear that she did not think the brother and sister deserved jail time because neither of them had criminal records, they were in the Capitol for less than 10 minutes, and they did not commit any violence or vandalism.
Chwiesiuk said that while he was in the Capitol, he approached an officer, spoke briefly to him, and then told his sister they needed to leave. “As a police officer,” he told the judge, “I honestly believe I had no choice but to enter the Capitol. My presence there could have been beneficial, right?” He said if he had witnessed an attack on police, he would have helped the officers.
“Am I remorseful? To an extent, right?” Chwiesiuk said. His sister did not speak to the judge.
When the Chicago police learned in June 2021 that Chwiesiuk was being investigated, they immediately suspended his police powers. He was arrested nine days later. “The fact that a Chicago police officer has been charged in that attack on American democracy,” then-Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said, “makes my blood boil.”
Reyes, handling only her fifth sentencing after being appointed to the bench last year by President Biden, said she did not think the Chwiesiuks drove from Chicago to the District with the intent to invade the Capitol, though Karol Chwiesiuk did text a cousin on Jan. 3 that he was traveling “to save the nation” and also to harm “some commies.”
The judge, frustrated by the lasting belief held by some that the rioters were justified, implored the Chwiesiuks to imagine if they had a brother working as an officer in the Capitol on Jan. 6 and it were overrun by supporters of Joe Biden. She asked them to consider receiving texts from their brother saying the Capitol was being overrun by rioters, and watching video of their brother being assaulted.
“You guys can give me whatever looks you want,” the judge told the Chwiesiuks as they stared at her, “but all of this happened.”
She said she wasn’t going to place them behind bars, but “I’m going to make it as painful as I can without going to prison.” In addition to the home detention and the probation, she ordered both to complete 200 hours of community service.
“Maybe in five years, 10 years from now,” Reyes said, “you’ll say, ‘It was wrong of me to participate in this.’”
Of the roughly 740 defendants who have been sentenced for their role on Jan. 6, 400 have been placed on probation that extends past the upcoming presidential election, a Washington Post database shows. About 106 defendants also have received home detention as part of their sentences.