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East County man sentenced to 30 days in prison for Capitol breach

A San Diego County man was sentenced Monday to 30 days in prison for his role in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Philip Weisbecker, 51, pleaded guilty in March to one misdemeanor count of parading or demonstrating in the Capitol. He is among a handful of people with San Diego ties who have been charged or linked to the Capitol breach.

His attorney on Monday argued for a sentence of time served during a virtual hearing in Washington, D.C., where the massive federal prosecution is based. Prosecutors asked for three months in prison. The judge settled on 30 days of custody, which can be served intermittently on weekends if desired, along with two years of probation.

Weisbecker had already agreed to pay $500 in restitution as part of his plea agreement to help cover damage to the Capitol.

In a sentencing memorandum filed before the hearing, his lawyer said Weisbecker was influenced by “media manipulation” of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

“People like Mr. Weisbecker stood no chance at truly grasping the gravity or reality of the situation,” wrote attorney Kira Anne West.

Weisbecker flew from San Diego to attend Trump’s rally in Washington, then followed the crowd to the Capitol and went inside. He said he was there as a citizen journalist and admitted to entering the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and taking pictures in the Rotunda.

He was not accused of any destructive or violent acts.

Weisbecker posted on social media a screenshot from Fox News of him inside the Capitol. The FBI were tipped to his involvement, launching the investigation.

Prosecutors pointed to Weisbecker’s actions upon returning home as aggravating factors.

“Weisbecker celebrated the violence of the day after January 6 by posting pictures and video of the protestors on the scaffolding and in restricted areas,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “He repeatedly asserted on Facebook that the media was lying and downplayed the violence of the day, blaming it on Black Lives Matters and Antifa while falsely claiming those entities and Capitol Police Officers let him inside the Capitol.”

Prosecutors also noted Weisbecker’s history of verbally abusive behavior toward federal officials, including during inspections at ports of entry and in an April encounter with TSA agents at the San Diego International Airport in which he called them “monkeys” and other profanities.

Weisbecker, who works as an estimator for construction projects, apologized for his actions in a letter to the judge. However, during the hearing the judge suggested the two-page letter seemed to be an attempt to minimize the crime.

“I take complete responsibility for my actions of participating as a citizen journalist that entered the capitol building at a time that was not open to the public for journalists,” Weisbecker wrote. “I failed to grasp the seriousness of my physical presence at the event. I am extremely remorseful for my actions and miss being a free American.”

He used to live in Ocean Beach but now resides in Dulzura near the U.S.-Mexico border, on land he described as being near a smuggling trail. He argued the need for a gun for safety reasons, protection he was prohibited from possessing while on pre-trial monitoring.

The judge on Monday declined to rule on the issue and left the decision up to probation officers.



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