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‘A betrayal to the country I deeply love’: Chicago-area woman sentenced to 10 days in jail in Jan. 6 riot

A Vietnamese immigrant from Chicago’s west suburbs was sentenced to 10 days in jail Monday for her actions at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which she said were spurred by online misinformation that stoked her deep fears of Communism.

Nhi Ngoc Mai Le, 27, of Montgomery, pleaded guilty last year in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to disorderly conduct and illegally demonstrating at the Capitol, both misdemeanors. In addition to the jail sentence, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered Le to pay $1,500 in fines and restitution.

Le, whose family fought against the Communists in Vietnam before being granted asylum in the U.S., admitted in a plea agreement with prosecutors that in the days before before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, she posted on Facebook that America was “a free country is under attack by underground forces.

“As much as you love the country, you hate the communists,” she wrote.

Video footage from the U.S. Capitol showed Le sitting on a railing outside the building and encouraging rioters to enter the Capitol, according to her plea agreement. After rioters broke through a door she entered with the crowd and walked around as alarms sounded and police were trying to block people from going further into the building.

“While inside the building, Le entered the Senate office just left of the entrance of the building, walked around the office, and recorded a video,” her plea agreement stated. After about five minutes, Le exited the Senate office went out the same door she’d entered.

When interviewed by the FBI in April 2021, Le originally denied entering the Capitol. She acknowledged her actions during a second interview about a year later, according to prosecutors.

The criminal complaint filed against Le in 2023 also detailed Facebook messages and videos sent between Le and others in which Le allegedly said she had climbed a wall to access the Capitol, went inside the building and had been pepper-sprayed.

The complaint also detailed Le’s Facebook posts calling on viewers to remember Jan. 6 as a historic day.

“Proud to be a Trump Supporter, remember today’s historic event January 6th,” Le wrote. “It was a pleasure to meet so many very enthusiastic brothers from all over the United States.”

In a letter to the court prior to sentencing, Le wrote that due to language barriers she was “unable to grasp” news in her adopted land. Instead, she “relied on YouTube summaries” posted by podcast host Tran Maico that “raised concerns about the U.S. turning communist, reviving memories of childhood fears,” Le wrote.

“This led me to participate in the events at Washington DC on January 6th,” she wrote. “It stands as the most significant mistake of my life, feeling like a betrayal to the country I deeply love — a country that extended help to my entire family.”

Le said she’s now “ceased consuming ambiguous news” and understands that the 2021 election was not stolen.

“The country remained peaceful and I am still a protected U.S. citizen,” Le wrote. “Looking back, the fear that the U.S. would turn communist under Biden’s presidency in 2021 seems ludicrous and embarrassing.”

Le was among some 46 Illinoisans charged so far in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, as part of what federal prosecutors have called one of the most expansive criminal investigations in the nation’s history.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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