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Former North Carolina officer, once sworn to fight criminals, became one Jan. 6 and now heads to jail

Julia Coin, The News & Observer on

Published in News & Features

RALEIGH, N.C. — A former North Carolina police officer convicted in the Capitol riot will spend 366 days in jail, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Prosecutors said Laura Steele of Thomasville was “arguably the most culpable” of the five defendants sentenced Friday. The 55-year-old former High Point officer joined the Oath Keepers militia group days before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court filings.

That day’s violence has been tied to five deaths and about 140 officer injuries. In Washington, D.C., Friday, Steele was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, six months of home confinement and three years of supervised release for her role in the riot. Prosecutors argued Steele’s crimes, which amounted to eight counts, justified eight to 10 years in jail.

Steele, who is married to a high-ranking High Point officer, ignored “good judgment” she learned through more than a decade as an officer and SWAT team member “to the detriment of this community and to the country,” prosecutors said.

She helped lead a military stack formation up the Capitol steps through a mob of Donald Trump supporters enraged by the former president’s claims of a stolen election, photos show.

But “that was not what she had signed up for nor experienced,” her lawyers wrote in court filings.


Steele’s defense hinged largely on the remorse that followed her after she entered the Capitol, “realized it was not the place to linger and got out as quickly as possible.” Her lawyers — rather than the year and one day in prison Steele now faces — asked for no jail time, community service and four years of home detention. That’s six months for each of the eight counts she faced.

A Washington D.C. jury in March convicted Steele and three co-defendants — Connie Meggs, Sandra Parker, William Isaacs — of felony counts related to obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and conspiracy to prevent members of Congress from discharging their duties by certifying the results of the 2020 election.

A jury acquitted Bennie Parker of the other charges but convicted him of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds.

Steele’s lawyers maintained she was simply a follower of her brother and right-wing pundits who exacerbated fears as “the faithful” watched Trump’s claims of a stolen election intensify and seemingly come true.


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