Capitol rioter who wore ‘Camp Auschwitz’ sweatshirt sentenced to 75 days in prison
The rioter whose “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt went viral in a photo on social media during the Jan. 6 insurrection has been sentenced to 75 days in prison. In January 2022, Robert Packer, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing. As part of his plea agreement, Packer agreed to cooperate with the federal government.
At Packer’s sentencing, a prosecutor revealed that Packer wore an SS T-shirt under the Camp Auschwitz hoodie, according to Law & Crime News. That news site also reported that Packer was allegedly part of a group headed to the office of Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish.
Prior to Thursday’s hearing, federal prosecutors said Packer should serve 75 days in prison, although he faced up to a maximum of six months in prison. Other rioters who have been charged on the same account received little or no prison time. Since the insurrection, more than 730 people have been charged with federal crimes, of which about 200 of them have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.
Packer was arrested in January 2021, a week after the riot. When FBI agents asked Packer why he wore the sweatshirt, he replied, “because I was cold.” Following his arrest, FBI agents searched Packer’s home. They found swastika artwork, VCR tapes with photos of Adolf Hitler, a German eagle with a swastika and a folder entitled “White’s Only Material.”
According to The Associated Press, a witness tipped off local law enforcement after recognizing Packer’s black sweatshirt, which showed a picture of a human skull and the slogan “Work Brings Freedom” – the translation of “Arbeit macht frei,” the words posted on the gate at Auschwitz where millions of Jews were murdered. A store in Newport News, Virginia, where Packer was a regular customer captured him on a surveillance camera wearing the same sweatshirt in December 2020.
Packer traveled from Virginia to D.C. for the assault on the Capitol. A sentencing memo filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in May explained that Packer entered the Capitol building six minutes after the first breach despite seeing broken windows. Although he wasn’t accused of violence, his sweatshirt drew widespread attention. In the days after the riot, copycat versions of the Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt were sold online.
In a sentencing memo, Stephen F. Brennwald, Packer’s attorney, said he received many media inquiries about Packer’s Nazi sweatshirt from cultural and religious organizations. But in a letter to U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols —who sentenced Packer on Thursday — said that Packer wasn’t the monster the media made him out to be.
NBC News justice reporter Ryan J. Reilly tweeted that Packer’s sister asked a judge to show leniency, writing that it is “easy to judge a book by its cover.” She further explained that his sweatshirt “could be considered in poor taste.”