Catawba County man fighting sentence for involvement in Capitol riot
CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The front porch of James Leslie Little’s Catawba County home is a far cry from the unimaginable scenes the world watched play out in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.
Little doesn’t deny that he drove to DC with a friend that day to protest, he says, the results of the 2020 election.
“I kind of felt like I was called by God to go,” he told WBTV.
Little says he walked towards the Capitol building out of curiosity as he watched his fellow protestors go inside.
“It was kind of like watching a train wreck. You can’t look away from a train wreck and I wanted to go look and see what was going on,” Little said. “Plus, instantly I knew this was a moment in American history.”
Little texted friends and family that day, “we just took over the capitol” but says he only walked into the building because police let him.
“They stood there on either side of the door and I walked right in,” he said.
Despite the images of violence and brutality that are now synonymous with the insurrection, Little insists what he witnessed was peaceful.
“For a lot of us, it was a patriotic moment,” Little said.
A moment that led to an FBI interview, arrest, and four federal misdemeanor charges.
In November, Little pleaded guilty to one of those counts, “Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building.” The following March, he was sentenced to two months in prison, a $500 fine, and three years of probation that he says prohibits his use of texting and social media.
He says his attorney has already entered an appeal.
“To me, that’s a basic first amendment right, freedom of speech,” Little said.
Attorney Brad Smith often defends federal criminal cases, though he’s not involved in this one. He wasn’t surprised to see the results of Little’s case.
“It was very normal as far as federal sentencing goes,” Smith said.
While Leslie believes politics played a role in his sentence, Smith says that likely wasn’t the case.
“Federal judges are appointed for life. They’re not elected officials; they don’t usually play politics.”
Leslie’s biggest issue with the sentence? The probation terms that will keep him off social media and his active YouTube channel.
“I feel like it’s not just about me. It’s about our country and our constitutional rights as a whole,” he said.
A constitution he wholeheartedly believes he was fighting for, despite doing so in a way that broke the law. And while he doesn’t regret the beliefs he stood up for that day, he does regret the outcome he’s now facing.
“I regret going in the capitol for all the pain and consternation it’s caused my family and I,” he said.
Leslie is scheduled to report to federal prison soon. If his appeal isn’t successful, he says he plans to look at his time behind bars as his mission field.
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