'I Just Shouldn't Tweet': Frisco Realtor Jenna Ryan's Going to Prison for 60 Days Over Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

Real estate broker Jenna Ryan said she was following former President Donald Trump's orders when she went to the Capitol riots.
Real estate broker Jenna Ryan said she was following former President Donald Trump's orders when she went to the Capitol riots. "Dallas SEO/SEM Meetup - Linkbuilding Tips" by Levelten Interactive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
UPDATED 11:15 a.m. to add quotes.

In the end, Jenna Ryan’s white skin and blond hair couldn’t save her from jail.

On Thursday morning, the Frisco real estate broker was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison after she was charged in relation to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper also ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine and $500 in restitution to the architect of the Capitol.

Ahead of her sentencing, Ryan expressed remorse.

"I just want to say that I am very sorry," she said. "There's really not words to describe. I was foolish, and I made a mistake, and I learned from that mistake, like a thousand lessons."

Cooper wasn't having it, saying her media appearances and statements after Jan. 6 demonstrated "a certain lack of accountability for [her] actions."

“You’ve played down your role in the events," he said before handing down her sentence. "You’ve been very upfront that you feel no sense of shame or guilt.”

In August, Ryan pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, picketing or demonstrating in the Capitol. She faced a maximum prison sentence of six months and a $5,000 fine.

Since Jan. 6, Ryan has blamed the FBI and called the push to punish insurrectionists a “witch hunt,” Cooper said. She also suggested that Antifa had been involved, “despite no evidence whatsoever of that."

"I just shouldn't tweet." – Jenna Ryan

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“And perhaps most famously,” he continued, “in words that I’m sure that you regret, you predicted that you wouldn’t go to jail because you have blond hair and white skin.”

Ryan butted in, insisting she’d posted the tweet in question after someone attacked her online.

“I just shouldn’t tweet,” Ryan said. “I mean, I was really sticking up for myself, and I didn’t do a great job of that.”

Around 650 defendants had been arrested in connection to the Capitol riot as of last month, the Justice Department reported. During the attack, supporters of then-President Donald Trump interrupted the 2020 Electoral College vote certification, forcing Congress members to take cover. Several people died as a result of the insurrection and approximately $1.5 million in damages was inflicted on the Capitol building.

Ahead of the sentencing, federal prosecutors pushed for Ryan to spend 60 days behind bars, arguing that she’d promoted the day’s violent attack. In a memo, they wrote that Ryan was aware bloodshed was a possibility; she streamed video of herself on Facebook Live saying she was “going to war” and chanting “hang Mike Pence," prosecutors said.

Ryan became infamous after she joined other North Texas real estate professionals in flying to Washington on a private plane. That day, she livestreamed herself entering the Capitol building.

She also tweeted: “We just stormed the Capital [sic]. It was one of the best days of my life."

Although she later tried to distance herself from the insurrection in media interviews, Ryan appeared enthralled by the Jan. 6 melee. She posted a photo of herself flashing a peace sign in front of a broken window. As she entered the Capitol building, she promoted her real estate business.

“You guys, can you believe this? I am not messing around,” she said in a throng of fellow Trump supporters. “When I come to sell your house, this is what I will do. I will fucking sell your house. USA! USA! USA!”
After returning to Texas, Ryan was arrested on multiple federal charges but claimed she’d be spared prison time. In a March tweet, she wrote: “Definitely not going to jail. Sorry I have blonde [sic] hair white skin a great job a great future and I'm not going to jail. Sorry to rain on your hater parade. I did nothing wrong.”

Weeks after the attack, Ryan appeared to shirk responsibility for the day’s events, telling media outlets she was just following Trump’s orders. During an interview with the Observer, she also once claimed her own treatment was akin to “how they treated the Jews” in Nazi Germany.

A day before Ryan’s sentencing, her attorney Guy L. Womack said he hoped the court would agree with a U.S. probation officer’s recommendation that Ryan receive probation.

Ryan wound up pleading guilty to demonstrating inside the Capitol because it’s what her own livestream video showed, Womack said. No one alleged she forced her way inside or damaged property. Rather, she “merely walked inside the Capitol as part of a mass demonstration,” he said. She did not see violence or incite it, he claimed, which is why she wasn’t charged that way.

When asked his thoughts on how the district judge was handling his client’s case, Womack replied: “Judge Cooper has a reputation as a fair and impartial jurist and has appeared so throughout this case.”

Ryan’s defense won’t contest the $500 in restitution because it’s a term of her plea agreement, Womack said. The assistant U.S. attorney told him that the recommended 60-day sentence was not her independent decision but one that a committee of her superiors had mandated.

Federal prosecutors accused Ryan of “publicly cheerleading” the violent storming of the nation’s capital. But Womack insists that evidence shows she was a follower in the day’s events — not a leader.

"Expecting that they will have great judgment on the back-end of this as they’re released, that’s difficult to say or to expect.” – Rachel Goldwasser, SPLC research analyst

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“Any ‘cheerleading’ was done after the demonstration had ended, when she was back at her hotel, miles away,” he said by email. “She merely commented on her participation in the demonstration, which she believed was allowable under the 1st Amendment to our Constitution.”

Ryan wasn't the only person at the Capitol riot who celebrated the events on social media, said Rachel Goldwasser, a research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. There was “no level of shame” in their original posts in which they bragged about their involvement, but their social media became quieter after realizing they wouldn’t receive immunity for their actions.

Some insurrectionists were aligned with hate movements, she added. On Jan. 6, white nationalists and anti-government, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant groups determined they’d break into a federal building.

There needs to be consequences for those who seek to undermine or subvert democracy, Goldwasser said. Hopefully, the threat of jail time will work as a deterrence factor, but it’s hard to know for sure.

“Anyone that would go into the Capitol in these circumstances in the first place, I wouldn’t say that they’re showing the best judgment,” she said. “And so expecting that they will have great judgment on the back-end of this as they’re released, that’s difficult to say or to expect.”

So far, the FBI’s Dallas office, which stretches across much of the state’s top half, has arrested 32 people in connection to the riot, said spokesperson Melinda Urbina. She estimates at least three-quarters of those arrested reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

In October, a Dallas man received the toughest sentence yet in relation to the Capitol riot: 14 months. Urbina noted that Ryan is the second accused insurrectionist within FBI-Dallas’ jurisdiction to be sentenced.

To many, she’s also the most memorable.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter