A former Army Ranger and substitute teacher will spend more than five years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Robert Morss, of Glenshaw, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden to 66 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. He also must pay $300 in fines and $2,000 in restitution.
Morss was convicted in August of obstructing an official proceeding, assaulting police with a weapon, and robbery. Two other defendants, Geoffrey Sills, 31, of Virginia, and David Judd, 36, of Texas, also were convicted on various counts.
All three entered the Capitol after attending a rally held by then-President Donald Trump and violently confronted police in the lower terrace tunnel. Morss joined the crowd on the West Front of the Capitol grounds about 2 p.m., authorities have said. He was wearing a vest designed to hold body armor and carrying a knife sheath and scissors.
He moved to the front of the line of rioters skirmishing with police and tried to steal a police baton, authorities said. He then took part in a “heave-ho motion” with other rioters, rocking the mob against the police line. Morss also snatched a police riot shield and passed it to others who then created their own line against the police.
At one point, he yelled to fellow rioters, “Take a look around. We are going to take our Capitol back.” Later, he climbed through a broken window and passed a chair outside.
Morss served three tours in Afghanistan and then worked briefly as a substitute teacher in the Shaler Area School District.
His attorney, Nicholas Smith, pointed to Morss’ service record in a presentence report.
“Despite experiencing hard and occasionally brutal combat overseas (he still suffers from back pain on account of parachute jumps) or perhaps because of it, Morss remains almost impervious to pessimism,” Mr. Smith wrote. “Even today in jail he avoids dwelling on negative things and is cheerful in his outlook on life.”
He said Morss had no criminal record and his conduct Jan. 6, 2021, “was atypical for him.”
“Morss did not direct the crowd to the Capitol Building. He had no preconceived plan to enter the Capitol himself. The crowd turned into a mob which then led to a riot in the shadow of the Capitol Building,” the presentence report said. “Morss did not whip up the mob. Nor did he foresee one forming. Like hundreds of others in the area, he engaged in criminal conduct in an unprecedented scene of chaos.”
Friends and family submitted letters on Morss’ behalf, including one from a captain at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Virginia, where Morss was held from November 2021 through December 2022.
“While at NNRJ he was not involved in any incidents,” Capt. E. B. Luna wrote. “Furthermore, throughout his 410 days here … he remained respectful toward staff. Before he left, he was housed in what we consider a Worker Honor Pod, which means he has not been involved in any kind of incident.”
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