Trump supporters spared more jail time in weapons case

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Two supporters of President Donald Trump arrested after driving a Hummer with guns and ammunition to a Philadelphia vote-counting site in November 2020 have been spared additional jail time.

Joshua Macias, 44, and Antonio Lamotta, 63, were each sentenced Wednesday to 11½ to 23 months but placed on immediate parole followed by at least two years of probation, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Prosecutors had sought sentences of at least three years.

The pair were arrested on Nov. 5, 2020, after the FBI in Virginia relayed a tip about their plans to Philadelphia police. Officers stopped the men, who had driven up from Virginia Beach, about a block from the vehicle. Each man had a handgun on him, while an AR-style rifle and ammunition were found inside the vehicle, which sported an American flag and a window sticker for the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.

The two were convicted last fall of weapons counts but acquitted of election interference. Prosecutors argued that Macias, co-founder of Vets for Trump, and LaMotta planned a mass shooting as the presidential election remained uncertain, but a judge convicted them only of bringing weapons to the city without a permit. Defense attorneys argued that although the two may have lacked proper permits to carry their firearms in the city, they were licensed Virginia gun owners who threatened no one and made no attempt to interfere with the counting of votes. They alleged a political motivation in the prosecution of their clients.

Lamotta’s attorney, Lauren Wimmer, said he had made an “error of law” in the belief that his Virginia license would be recognized in Pennsylvania, but prosecutors seized on that “to punish him for his political views.”

Attorney William Brennan, representing Macias called the prosecution “stenched up with politics,” and co-counsel Alan Tauber said prosecutors were "getting a sugar high” from publicly denouncing two Republican supporters in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. Macias’ attorneys also played video testimonials from more than a dozen friends or relatives citing the defendant's service to veterans, his church, and his family.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer denied that politics had played a role in how the office handled the case. Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons said that despite all the talk of politics, “I just call balls and strikes here.”