CLEVELAND — A federal judge in Washington, D.C. sentenced a former Cleveland school district occupational therapist to 15 months in prison Friday for her involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots.
Christine Priola, who used to work in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District as an occupational therapist, will also have one year of supervised release and will have to pay $2,000 restitution.
She is among at least 53 Ohioans who have been charged for their roles in the riots.
In July, the 50-year-old Willoughby resident pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction of an official proceeding and agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution to the Architect of the Capitol as part of the estimated $1.5 million in damages to the Capitol.
Initially, the plea agreement recommended between 15 to 21 months in prison.
Priola traveled to the Capitol on a chartered bus, according to court documents. Officials said she entered the Capitol Building around 2:50 p.m. through the east rotunda doors, carrying a sign that said, “Our children cry for justice” on one side and “We the people take back our country” on the other.
From there, she spent some time on the Senate floor, documenting with her phone. She left the building shortly after 3 p.m.
Between Jan. 6 and Jan. 12, 2021, prosecutors said Priola deleted cellphone data with pictures, videos, chats and messages from approximately Jan. 4 through Jan. 7, 2021.
During the riots, she was still employed through the district, but resigned on Jan. 7, 2021, shortly before the FBI and U.S. Marshals issued a search warrant for her home after social media users began identifying her through photos. Officials confiscated two computers, a thumbdrive and a laptop.
On Jan. 13, officials issued an arrest warrant and she was arrested the next day.
In her resignation letter to the district, Priola wrote she was resigning to switch paths in life to focus on exposing the “global evil of human trafficking and pedophilia,” including in the government and children’s services agencies.
She also cited fears of being forced to take the COVID vaccine to continue working for the school district, though at the time, Ohio schools had no requirements for school staff to be vaccinated.
The Cleveland Teachers Union released a statement Jan. 8, 2021:
“While we support the right to peaceful protest, what happened inside the Capitol on Wednesday was not a protest. It was an insurrection. It is the exact opposite of what we teach our students. Anyone who participated must bear the very serious consequences of their actions.”
As of Friday, officials have arrested around 850 in connection to the riots, and more than 200 people have been sentenced after being charged with obstruction of an official proceeding. Half of those have received prison time.