Virginia man arrested during U.S. Capitol assault is "brainwashed," daughter says

CBS News/February 23, 2021

Robyn Sweet was always close to her dad, Doug, growing up in Virginia. As a kid, she considered him her "rock." Her dad's career at the shipyards near his home ended back in the early 1990s when he was injured on the job. Sweet's parents divorced, and Doug works as a handyman in town.

Sweet said she doesn't remember growing up with politics, but things changed when her father began to attend rallies.

"When Charlottesville happened," Sweet told CBS News' Ben Tracy, "my dad was there."

During the 2017 white supremacist rally "Unite The Right," Sweet said her father fully embraced former President Trump's rhetoric about defending Confederate heritage. It was there she said that he found a new home in far-right politics, much of it online.

"We couldn't have a regular conversation. It would just go right down this rabbit hole like, 'They're taking children and draining their blood to make adrenochrome,'" she said.

Adrenochrome is a chemical compound produced by the oxidation of adrenaline. It's also become an ingredient in the baseless online conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

Simultaneously, Robyn was devoting herself to racial justice issues, marching last summer with Black Lives Matter.

Then on January 6, as Americans watched as rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol, Sweet wondered if her father was among the flood of rioters.

"My very first thought was, 'I bet my dad is there.' I was afraid for him. I had people check his Facebook. He hadn't posted anything," she said. "Then I got really scared, and somebody sent me a news report that listed him as arrested."

Sweet is among at least 238 people charged for their alleged roles in the riot. Federal prosecutors opened over 400 investigations into possible criminals stemming from the Capitol attack.

Sweet comes from Mathews, Virginia, a seaside town of 9,000 people. Some residents said that extremist and often racist views once hidden have been on full display in recent years.

"The attitudes and the ideas and the motivations that drove people to the Capitol have been bubbling under the surface here since I was a kid," Shawn Cosby said.

"How much of it do you think has been a reaction to what happened last summer with protests for racial justice?" Tracy asked.

"I think that's a lot of it. I think the bottom line is you have a lot of people who are incredibly afraid. And they can't articulate, they don't know how to express it," Cosby said.

Sweet wasn't the only person from Mathews who allegedly participated in the Capitol riots. Federal prosecutors charged Cindy Fitchett for unlawfully entering the Capitol. Both Sweet and Fitchett have pleaded not guilty.

Shortly after Sweet was arrested, he said that he didn't go with any malice or intention of malice. He declined CBS News' request for an interview and is scheduled to appear in court in March.

House prosecutors used Sweet's own words during former President Trump's impeachment trial.

Sweet was quoted as saying that he showed up on January 6 because Mr. Trump had told his so-called "digital soldiers" to be there.

Robyn said she saw her dad recently, and she is hopeful they can mend their relationship.

"At the end of the day, they're your family. I feel like he really has been almost kind of brainwashed in a way," Sweet said.

"You obviously still love him," Tracy asked.

"Oh, absolutely, yeah," she said.

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