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Chicago cop gets probation, 3 months of home detention for entering Capitol on Jan. 6 and later texting: ‘It was epic’

A Chicago police officer was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation, with the first three months on home detention, for breaching the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot three years ago and walking around the building before texting a friend that the whole experience was “epic.”

Karol Chwiesiuk, who was placed on unpaid leave shortly after his arrest in 2021, is the only known member of the Chicago Police Department to have been charged with taking part in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

He was found guilty at trial last year in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., where he testified he had no idea what was going on at the Capitol or that he was not allowed to enter.

Prosecutors had asked for a year in prison for Chwiesiuk, arguing in a recent filing that he violated his sworn oath as a police officer both by illegally entering the Capitol and by lying about it on the witness stand.

U.S. District Judge Ana C. Reyes, however, sentenced Chwiesiuk instead to three years of probation, which was the request of his Chicago-based lawyer, Nishay Sanan. The judge also ordered Chwiesiuk to serve the first three months of the term on home detention, perform 200 hours of community service, and pay $500 in restitution.

Chwiesiuk’s sister, Agnieszka, who was with him at the Capitol that day and was found guilty by the same jury, was given an identical sentence Wednesday.

Reached by phone from Washington, Sanan said both siblings were “relieved” that their sentence did not include any jail time, although they both still believe that the evidence did not support a conviction on the charges and are weighing an appeal.

“Probation was the appropriate sentence for what amounted to eight minutes of their life,” Sanan said.

Although not on active status, Chwiesiuk has yet to be terminated from the police department, according to Sanan. Asked if Chwiesiuk would seek to rejoin the force, Sanan said the first step would be to get his firearm owner’s identification card back, which is a requirement even for desk duty.

Karol Chwiesiuk was charged in 2021 in a criminal complaint with five misdemeanor counts, including entering a restricted building, disrupting government business and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with intent to impede a congressional proceeding. His sister was hit with similar charges in December 2022.

Two days before the riot, Karol Chwiesiuk sent texts to a friend that said, “Busy planning how to (expletive) up commies,” according to the charges. On Jan. 6, prosecutors alleged, Chwiesiuk texted the same friend, “We inside the capital lmfao.”

The complaint alleged that while inside the Capitol, Chwiesiuk broke into Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office and took a selfie while he wore a hooded sweatshirt with a Chicago Police Department logo on it.

After the siege made national news, the friend texted Chwiesiuk about it, who replied, “Yeah I was there” and, with a racial slur, “(Expletive) don’t snitch.”

“It was epic. Super fun. The optics are bad but (expletive) it at this point ya know,” Chwiesiuk wrote in another text about the event, according to prosecutors.

After a two-day trial last August, a jury convicted both siblings of the four charges related to breaching the Capitol building, but acquitted Karol Chwiesiuk of the charge that accused him of entering Merkley’s office.

In their sentencing submission, prosecutors said it was unbelievable that the Chwiesiuks didn’t know what they were doing when they entered the Capitol through a broken-out fire door, ignoring a blaring alarm, rioters suffering from tear gas “and the fact that they had to work their way against a steady flow of rioters coming out of the Capitol.”

Prosecutors also said neither sibling has accepted any responsibility or shown remorse for their actions, making it clear they could repeat their conduct in the future if faced with “a political outcome” they don’t agree with.

Sanan said the judge did not make any finding that Chwiesiuk had lied under oath and did not factor his testimony into the sentence. She also reduced the sentencing guidelines for both siblings since they were first-time offenders, he said.

Karol Chwiesiuk has been a Chicago police officer since 2018 and was most recently assigned to patrol the Harrison District (11th). After his arrest, he was stripped of his police powers and reassigned to desk duty.

Then-Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said the charges against the officer made his “blood boil.”

“And, yes, if these allegations are true, it breaks my heart. Participating in the siege on the Capitol in any way was a betrayal of everything we stand for, the oath (and) the law,” he said at a 2021 news conference.

Sanan said in his sentencing filing that the Chwiesiuks went to Washington not to break the law, but to “see Donald Trump speak and hear what he had to say about what they believe to be a stolen election.”

Sanan said no sentence imposed by the court “will change (Karol Chwiesiuk’s) political outlook and beliefs related to this prosecution,” and that a probationary term would help him fight to keep his job on the police force when the case is over.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com