In a recent court ruling, one of three active-duty Marines involved in the storming of the U.S. Capitol received a sentence of probation and 279 hours of community service—a poignant hour for every Marine who fought and suffered during the Civil War.
U.S. District Judge Ana Reyes expressed her bewilderment at why Dodge Hellonen, an active-duty Marine, violated his oath to protect the Constitution and risked his career by participating in the January 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol that disrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
A Chilling Account: The Capitol Breach
Dodge Hellonen, now 24 years old, was the first among the three Marines to face consequences for his involvement in the Capitol breach. His co-defendants, Micah Coomer and Joshua Abate, are scheduled for sentencing in the coming days.
These three friends from the same unit embarked on a fateful journey from a military post in Virginia to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, where they joined the crowd that stormed the Capitol.
A Solemn Reminder: Marines’ Sacrifices in History
Before delivering Hellonen’s sentence, Judge Reyes recounted the sacrifices made by Marines in some of the nation’s most significant battles throughout history.
She emphasized the importance of remembering their legacy and the significance of their service.
Prosecutor’s Recommendations and Concerns
Prosecutors recommended relatively short terms of incarceration, along with community service, for the defendants. Their military service, while commendable, raised concerns, making their actions all the more troubling in the eyes of the prosecution.
A Judge’s Decision: Weighing Factors
Judge Reyes acknowledged that Hellonen’s active-duty status did not favor a more lenient sentence. However, she considered his positive attitude and strong work ethic even after facing demotion as factors that carried weight in her decision.
Hellonen’s sentence included four years of probation and community service.
A Personal Acknowledgment: Taking Responsibility
During the sentencing, Hellonen took full responsibility for his actions, expressing remorse and acknowledging the lifelong impact of his choices.
Complexities of the Case: The Coomer Statement
In the case, Coomer’s statements on social media added complexity. He spoke of participating in “history,” called for a “fresh start,” and mentioned being “waiting for the boogaloo,” a term associated with a second civil war.
These statements raised concerns about his potential involvement in such actions given his military background.
A Broader Perspective: Capitol Protest-Related Crimes
The case is part of a broader context, with hundreds of individuals sentenced for Capitol protest-related federal crimes. Notably, over 100 of them have served in the U.S. military, though only a few were active-duty military or law enforcement personnel during the events of January 6, 2021.
Uncertain Military Status: Possible Separation
While as of now, all three Marines remain on active-duty status, prosecutors noted the possibility of their separation from the Marine Corps “on less than honorable conditions.” Separation proceedings have been initiated for some, while others await decisions.
Service Acknowledged, but Not Credited: Prosecutor’s Perspective
Prosecutors acknowledged the commendable military service of the defendants but asserted that, given the circumstances, it should not be credited as a mitigating factor.
A Complex Timeline: The Marine’s Background
Hellonen, originally from Michigan, had been stationed in Quantico, Virginia, at the time of the Capitol breach. He served as a signals intelligence analyst and had been promoted to the rank of sergeant. After relocating to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he was arrested while awaiting deployment.
The sentencing of these Marines serves as a complex reflection on their actions, their military service, and the consequences of their involvement in a significant historical event.