It began without warning.
A Jan. 6 prisoner had emerged from his cell without a mask. When it was all over, the jail was in lockdown and several inmates had been pepper sprayed, handcuffed, and thrown into solitary confinement. Inmate tablets were quickly confiscated, but not before several prisoners had time to send text messages, exposing the brutal truth of what happened. Many of those messages were obtained by The Epoch Times. In exclusive interviews with The Epoch Times, the family members of several Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach prisoners share their stories.
'[Expletive] Just Went Down'According to a text message sent by one Jan. 6 prisoner to a family member, "[expletive] just went down" at the Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington at roughly 9:46 a.m. on Sept. 5. One of the guards had just "assaulted McAbee because he wasn't wearing a mask."
Ronald had just been let out of his cell by a pod officer in order to receive his medications. Inmates, have to take their medications in front of the nurse to prove that they swallowed the pills, according to Sarah. The med cart was about 25 feet from the door of Ronald's cell. When he walked out of the cell to take his medications, he wasn't wearing his mask.
Lt. Crystal Lancaster began yelling at him and ordering him to put his mask on. He said he was going to get his medication and didn't need his mask. It was after he had taken his medication that it's alleged that Lancaster doused his face with OC spray.
With Ronald on the ground in pain, Lancaster ordered the pod officer to handcuff him. As McAbee was being handcuffed, Lancaster sprayed him again, point blank, in the face.
Sarah's account is validated by the texts sent by other Jan. 6 prisoners to their family members.
"It's very concerning because the guards can come in and do whatever they like to these people with no accountability," she said.
Messages sent by two more Jan. 6 prisoners provide corroboration and more detail.
A History of Abuse and Sub-Human ConditionsSarah said the facility has a long history of sub-human conditions. She also noted that Lancaster, notorious among Jan. 6 prisoners and their family members for being particularly vulgar and brutal, had been banned from the Jan. 6 pod for verbal abuse and for stealing the inmates' mail.
"I don't know if that ban was lifted or why she was in that pod," she said.
Sarah's account was again validated independently by the messages from other Jan. 6 prisoners.
"Luckily, the judge did not grant that," Nicole told The Epoch Times, noting that her husband never entered the Capitol building, touched anyone, or damaged anything. "He was still sentenced to seven and a half years. We're still trying to wrap our brains around that.
"I have been unable to talk to my husband."
She noted that the tablets the prisoners use to communicate with their family members were suddenly confiscated.
"He has not been able to send me a message," Nicole said. "The last message he sent me was that they were being assaulted and officers had taken off their body cams."
She also revealed that the prisoners' electronic grievance system has been turned off, and they haven't been able to file grievances with the jail for more than a month. This means that none of the incidents of abuse are being documented, and no one is being held accountable. Even the paper grievances filed by prisoners are "torn up in front of their faces."
The history of abuse was validated by the message of another Jan. 6 prisoner.
Mistaken Identity or Intentional Retaliation?Despite repeated pleas to U.S. senators, representatives, the Bureau of Prisoners, and U.S. marshals, Bonnie Nichols says nothing has changed. As reported by The Epoch Times in July, her husband Ryan faces 11 charges, including multiple infractions with the words “Deadly or Dangerous Weapon” attached. The "Deadly or Dangerous Weapon" was pepper spray.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 7, Bonnie received a heartbreaking series of text messages from Ryan describing both his physical and mental state after he was assaulted by Lancaster and thrown into solitary confinement. He believes that he was attacked by Lancaster in a case of mistaken identity.
However, Bonnie is convinced that the assault on her husband was a matter of intentional retaliation for the lawsuit that was filed on Aug. 10 "that named her specifically."
"She also oversees officers and guards who do the same, and is suspected of bringing drugs into the prison," the complaint reads. "The presence of drugs in the prison was confirmed by both the U.S. Marshals’ report and the testimony of the DC City Council Chair on the Judiciary and Public Safety."
Bonnie also noted that Lancaster had been banned from the Jan. 6 pod "for weeks." She would taunt the inmates, calling them names such as "white cracker [expletive]" and telling them that she's going to "[expletive] your daddy and give you a little sister."
The last time Ryan was thrown in solitary was apparently in retaliation for a grievance he had filed. Because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the traumas suffered during his military service, he was placed on suicide watch. However, he wasn't allowed to see a nurse or receive mental health counseling. They simply put him in a straight jacket and "strapped him to a bench."
Now he's in solitary again. The pod is still on lockdown. Because he wasn't allowed to shower for 48 hours after the assault, he has chemical burns all over his body from the OC spray. The emergency response team told him to "stop being a [expletive]."
"I'm angry at this point over what's continuing to happen," Bonnie told The Epoch Times. "It's like this jail is untouchable. It's aggravating that these men are still in the same situation after two years."
Aside from the abuse and abhorrent conditions, Bonnie said her husband's "discovery was taken from him."
'There Will Be Hell to Pay'Don Nichols, Ryan's father, was with Bonnie when she spoke with The Epoch Times.
Don had been on the phone all morning. He contacted the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service. He has been advised that "the best bet is to get a hold of your Senators and Congressmen."
"[Rep.] Louie Gohmert has already done everything he can do," Don told The Epoch Times, praising the Texas Republican congressman for his dedication to the plight of Jan. 6 prisoners.
Bonnie said Gohmert "has been doing more than anyone else has."
Don wants to know why so many Jan. 6 prisoners have been charged with using a "dangerous or deadly weapon" by using pepper spray but guards can douse "pre-trial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime multiple times before they're shackled and after they're shackled" and suffer no consequences.
"I ask one simple question," Don said. "Can I file criminal charges against Lt. Lancaster on behalf of my son? That's the question I want someone who's in charge of this system to answer. Because I'm willing to fly to Washington D.C. on whatever day saying I am ready to file charges against each and every person who perpetrated this crime against these men."
Bonnie asked, "How much can a human being take until it's too much?"
The President Made Hate a 'Patriotic Duty'According to Joseph McBride, the attorney representing Ryan and several other Jan. 6 prisoners and defendants, the prison guards are retaliating against Ryan because of the habeas petition filed against Lancaster.
"There is no other explanation," McBride told The Epoch Times. "Our plan is to argue for his release today."
Citing 31 separate statements President Joe Biden made against MAGA Republicans during his 24-minute speech on Sept. 1, McBride said that "the President has incited the entire nation to hate the January 6th defendants as a patriotic duty."
Nowhere Else to GoIn the aftermath of the assault against their loved ones, each Jan. 6 family member is dealing with the situation in their own way. Sarah has requested the CCTV video footage so she can see for herself what happened. Bonnie and Don want answers. Nicole is heading to Washington "to stand in vigil with some other 1-6ers outside the jail" to sing with the prisoners.
Nightly without fail, they sing the National Anthem, Nicole said.
"It can be intimidating and very scary," she said. "We're fighting the sheer force of the U.S. government, and we're just regular people. It's overwhelming to think of the fight we have ahead of us and have been fighting for going on 20 months. It's scary, but it's important. I am going to take a leap of faith and go to D.C. because I don't know where else to go."