Mom cries out in court after youngest NC defendant gets 3 1/2 years in Jan 6 riot
A North Carolina man, the second youngest suspect in more than 1,000 arrests linked to the deadly US Capitol riot, will spend the next three years of his early adulthood behind bars.
Aiden Bilyard of Cary was 18 when he sprayed chemical agents at police and broke a window in the Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office during the violent mob attack on January 6, 2021.
On Friday, US District Judge Reggie Walton sentenced the 21-year-old to 40 months in prison for assaulting police with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Bilyard, he said, heeded “the calls of a demagogue” and took up arms with “people willing to destroy this country to get what they wanted.
“…Age and immaturity are no excuse for what happened.”
The sentence is the second longest ever handed down to a North Carolina defendant in the Jan. 6 investigation — a month shorter than the sentence handed down in July to former Fort Bragg Soldier James Mault for a related but lesser assault was imposed.
The judge’s announcement pulled a sob from the convicted felon’s mother, Amy Bilyard, sitting in the Washington, DC courtroom.
Walton warned her that if she couldn’t control her emotions, she would have to leave.
“I know you’re upset,” Walton said. “Unfortunately, your son did what he did. And like my mom used to tell me, ‘You make your bed, you have to lie in it.’”
Bilyard pleaded guilty in October, part of a deal with federal prosecutors that resulted in the dismissal of eight other charges, including four felonies.
His Raleigh-based attorneys had asked the court for house arrest instead of jail time. They argued that a young and impressionable teenager with no violent history succumbed to the “social media perversion of what it means to be a man.”
Still, they said, Bilyard went to Washington with no weapons, protective gear, or any plan to break the law. Once there, they said, he was drawn in.
“He acted like the immature, impulsive teenager he was,” attorney Jamie Vavonese told the judge.
“Every day he worked to be a different and better person. It’s a one-time mistake, the biggest mistake of his life. But the only mistake in his life.”
Bilyard is the latest of at least 28 NC residents charged in connection with the Capitol violence ignited by Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen due to voter fraud. Five deaths were linked to the attack. About 140 police officers were injured.
According to court documents, Bilyard was part of a group of teenage Raleigh-area Trump supporters who drove to Washington two years ago to attend the defeated president’s “Stop the Steal” rally near the Capitol.
Photos included in court documents show Cary’s Christopher “Chriss” Carnell and Raleigh’s David Worth Bowman in the US Senate that day.
Both were charged this month with obstruction of an official process, a felony punishable by up to 8 years in prison and multiple misdemeanor charges.
Unlike Bilyard, no one is charged with a violent act.
However, in an unexpected twist, Vavonese said her client made a deliberate decision to go to Washington alone on Jan. 6 because two of his friends, believed to be Carnell and Bowman, wrote in a text about bringing guns.
Court documents also show that Bilyard provided the FBI with information that led to Carnell and Bowman’s arrests.
Government attorneys had recommended that Bilyard receive 47 months — at the lower end of an agreed range of 46 to 57 months.
Assistant US Attorney Jordan Konig told the court that Bilyard “made a lot of mistakes on January 6th. But it’s fair to say he’s made a lot of good decisions since then.”
“He admitted his behavior. He didn’t shy away from what he did, why he did it, or the wrongness of it, which unfortunately isn’t universal in these cases,” King said.
Bilyard has been held in a Virginia jail for 22 hours over the past five months. When he had a chance to speak to the judge, he tearfully apologized to the cops he may have hurt, his mother, and for making “the stupidest decisions of my life.”
“My promise to the court is that I will never make those mistakes again,” he said, adding that he was aware Walton had heard such promises before.
“Do you know that behind those words is a real person with regrets,” he said. “Please have mercy.”
Walton, an aide appointed by George W. Bush, was undeterred and said the seriousness of Bilyard’s crimes required more than just a brief stint at home.
The judge agreed to recommend that Bilyard serve his time in a North Carolina prison so he can be closer to his family. He ended his comments with a long cautionary tale.
“It’s scary,” Walton said. “What happened on January 6 is not just in the past. It’s something that still haunts us. … It goes to the roots of what we’re supposed to be as a democracy, and a democracy can’t survive if (people) try to undermine an election just because they lost.
“… It’s just very confusing. People want to yell that they are “patriots”. They yell “USA, USA”. This is not the America I want to live in.”