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No additional jail time for Trump supporters who brought guns near the 2020 Philly vote count

Joshua Macias and Antonio Lamotta were each sentenced to 11½ to 23 months behind bars, but placed on immediate parole plus two years' probation.

Antonio Lamotta and Joshua Macias drove this Hummer with guns and ammunition to Philadelphia after the 2020 presidential election.
Antonio Lamotta and Joshua Macias drove this Hummer with guns and ammunition to Philadelphia after the 2020 presidential election.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Two Virginia men who were convicted of carrying guns near the Convention Center as votes from the presidential election were being counted in 2020 were given sentences Wednesday that spared them from additional jail time.

Joshua Macias and Antonio Lamotta were each sentenced to 11½ to 23 months behind bars but placed on immediate parole followed by at least two years of probation.

Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons did not explain her reasoning but emphasized that the men are now barred from possessing guns and said she would reevaluate her decision if there was any evidence of their being near a firearm.

Prosecutors had asked Clemons to impose a sentence of at least three years in prison. The men’s attorneys, meanwhile, said that incarceration was unnecessary and that their clients were being improperly villainized for their support of former President Donald Trump.

The prosecution was “stenched up with politics,” said Macias’ attorney, William J. Brennan. Co-counsel Alan Tauber, meanwhile, said District Attorney Larry Krasner’s administration was “getting a sugar high” from publicly denouncing two Republican supporters in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer denied that politics had played a role in how the office handled the case. And he said the men had displayed antipathy toward people with differing political perspectives, “wrapping [themselves] in the flag” while bringing weapons to a city with mostly Democratic voters.

“[For] people who clearly have not learned their lesson ... leniency is not appropriate,” he said.

Lamotta apparently took issue with how Palmer had described him during the hearing, telling Clemons: “Everything [Palmer] said is a lie.”

Macias, meanwhile, told Clemons he had made a mistake in the case that was “out of character,” and that he wouldn’t make it again.

The judge told them: “In two years, if you have no issues, you’re done” with the sentence.

Macias, 44, and Lamotta, 63, were convicted of weapons charges last fall for driving a Hummer loaded with handguns, an assault-style rifle, and ammunition to Center City on Nov. 5, 2020 — a journey they made as Trump, their preferred presidential candidate, was baselessly promoting the notion that the election was being stolen from him.

After the men arrived in the city — their SUV emblazoned with a sticker for the QAnon conspiracy movement — officers noticed them carrying guns on the street near the site of the vote count, where protesters had also gathered. Police then searched their SUV and found handguns, an AR-15-style rifle, and about 160 rounds of ammunition.

Prosecutors charged the pair with the firearms violations and later added an unusual set of elections crimes — arguing that the men told FBI agents they had come to Philadelphia to ensure that all votes in the election were being properly counted.

Krasner frequently discussed the case publicly, describing the incident as attempted election inference and saying it was a potential mass shooting averted by the swift action of law enforcement. His office also asked the courts to revoke bail for the men several times as the case wound its way toward trial. Each of them served a total of about a month in jail.

While they were free on bail, Macias and Lamotta continued to back Trump in ways that attracted legal scrutiny: Lamotta was federally charged with taking part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. And video emerged capturing Macias meeting with leaders of the extremist groups the Oathkeepers and the Proud Boys in a hotel parking garage the day before the riot. That footage was featured during a hearing organized by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

Clemons last fall convicted the men of the gun charges but acquitted them of the election offenses.

Their attorneys argued that although they may have lacked proper permits to carry their firearms in the city, they were licensed Virginia gun owners who did not threaten any city election official or make any attempt to see or interfere with the counting of the votes.

Lamotta’s lawyer, Lauren Wimmer, said Wednesday that he had made an “error of law” by believing his Virginia license would be recognized in Pennsylvania. But she said prosecutors had seized on that “to punish him for his political views.”

Macias’ attorneys played video testimonials from more than a dozen friends or relatives, many of whom spoke about his service to veterans, his church, and his family.

Clemons avoided diving into the political back-and-forth from the bench. But she made one remark about the issue before declaring the case closed.

“There’s been much talk about politics today,” she said. “I just call balls and strikes here.”