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2 Capitol rioters plead guilty while House hearing unfolds; judge calls their behavior ‘reprehensible’

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images via CNN)

  (CNN) — A married couple who stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6 and later downplayed the level of violence pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court, where a judge pledged to use the case to send a message that their behavior was “reprehensible.”

The plea hearing for the two Donald Trump supporters, Lori and Thomas Vinson of Kentucky, took place while the select committee hearing about the attack was underway in the House of Representatives.

The Vinsons, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of demonstrating in the Capitol. This has become the standard deal that the Justice Department has offered to nonviolent rioters.

The charge carries a potential maximum sentence of six months in jail, though they’ll likely get less than that, and could even receive probation and avoid incarceration. As part of the plea agreement, both agreed to pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol.

Judge Reggie Walton said he will weigh what sort of sentence will send a message to the public that this type of “reprehensible” behavior won’t be tolerated.

Both Lori and Thomas Vinson admitted to being inside the Capitol for 40 minutes. Thomas Vinson previously told investigators that they were part of a “peaceful bunch of people there to express their views to Congress,” according to court documents. Lori Vinson told investigators that they did not meet any resistance from law enforcement as they entered the Capitol, court documents show.

A few days after the riot, Lori Vinson struck a defiant tone in a local news interview, saying, “People have asked, ‘Are you sorry that you done that?’ Absolutely I am not; I am not sorry for that. I would do it again tomorrow.” She said she was fired from her job as a nurse after the riot.

As the virtual court proceeding began, someone on the video call could be heard listening to the opening statements from police officers testifying at the House committee investigating the insurrection.

So far, 23 people have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Capitol riot. The Justice Department has charged nearly 550 people in the attack, according to CNN’s latest tally.