Guy Who Donned 'Camp Auschwitz' Sweatshirt on Jan. 6 Sentenced

Robert Keith Packer gets 75 days behind bars
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 16, 2022 12:52 AM CDT
Guy Who Donned 'Camp Auschwitz' Sweatshirt on Jan. 6 Sentenced
This photo provided by Western Tidewater Regional Jail shows Robert Keith Packer of Newport News, Va., on Jan. 13, 2021.   (Western Tidewater Regional Jail via AP, File)

A Virginia man who stormed the US Capitol while wearing an antisemitic “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt over a Nazi-themed shirt was sentenced on Thursday to 75 days of imprisonment, the AP reports. Robert Keith Packer, 57, declined to address US District Judge Carl Nichols before he sentenced him during a hearing held by video conference. The judge noted the “incredibly offensive” message on Packer's sweatshirt before imposing the sentence. “It seems to me that he wore that sweatshirt for a reason. We don't know what the reason was because Mr. Packer hasn't told us,” Nichols said.

Photographs of Packer wearing the sweatshirt went viral after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. When FBI agents asked him why he wore it, he “fatuously” replied, “Because I was cold,” a federal prosecutor said in a court filing. Packer’s sweatshirt depicted an image of a human skull above the words “Camp Auschwitz.” The word “Staff” was on the back. It also bore the phrase “Work Brings Freedom,” a rough translation of the German words above the entrance gate to the concentration camp in occupied Poland.

Assistant US Attorney Mona Furst said she learned on Wednesday that Packer also wore an “SS" T-shirt—a reference to the Nazi Party paramilitary organization founded by Adolf Hitler—under his sweatshirt on Jan. 6. Packer “attacked the very government that gave him the freedom to express those beliefs, no matter how abhorrent or evil they may be" when he joined the mob supporting then-President Donald Trump, the prosecutor said. Packer "wanted to support the subversion of our republic and keep a dictatorial ruler in place by force and violence,” Furst told the judge.

Defense attorney Stephen Brennwald acknowledged that Packer's attire was “seriously offensive” but argued that it shouldn't be a sentencing factor because he has a free speech right to wear it. “It's just awful that he wore that shirt that day. I just don't think it's appropriate to give him extra time because of that because he's allowed to wear it,” he said. Brennwald added that Packer was offended and angry to be labeled a white supremacist “because he doesn't see himself that way at all.” The defense lawyer said Packer wanted him to sue House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for linking him to white supremacy during a press conference several days after the riot. Packer declined to speak during Thursday's hearing because he didn't want his words “splashed out there” on social media, his lawyer told the judge. (Read more Capitol riot stories.)

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