14 years in prison for the assault on the Capitol

Robert Collins
Robert Collins

Global Courant 2023-05-08 18:14:40

A Kentucky man with a lengthy criminal record was sentenced Friday to a record 14 years in prison for attacking police officers with pepper spray and a chair while storming the U.S. Capitol with his wife.

Peter Schwartz’s sentence is the longest to date among hundreds of cases for the riots on Capitol Hill.

The judge who sentenced Schwartz also handed down the previous longest sentence – 10 years – to a retired New York Police Department officer who assaulted a police officer in front of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

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Prosecutors had recommended a prison term of 24 years and 6 months for Schwartz, a welder.

District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Schwartz to 14 years and two months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Mehta said that Schwartz was a “soldier against democracy” who engaged in “the kind of tumult and chaos that has never been seen in the history of the country.”

“You are not a political prisoner”

“You are not a political prisoner,” the judge told him. “He is not someone who stands up against injustice or fights against an autocratic regime.”

Schwartz briefly addressed the judge before he was handed down his sentence, saying, “I am sincerely sorry for the damage that January 6th has caused to so many people and their lives.”

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The judge said he did not believe Schwartz’s statement, noting his lack of remorse.

“You took it upon yourself to try to injure multiple police officers that day,” Mehta said.

Schwartz was armed with a wooden bat used to check tire pressures when he and his then-wife, Shelly Stallings, joined other rioters in running over a line of police officers on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, where he threw a folding chair at the agents.

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Deputies watch a video about the riots at the Capitol. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP

“By throwing that chair, Schwartz directly contributed to the fall of the police line, allowing the rioters to move forward and seize the entire terrace,” prosecutor Jocelyn Bond said in a brief filed with the court.

Schwartz, 49, also took a can of police pepper spray and sprayed officers as they left. Advancing toward a tunnel entrance, Schwartz joined two other rioters, Markus Maly and Jeffrey Brown, in spraying officers facing the crowd with orange liquid.

“Although the stream of liquid did not directly hit any officers, its effect was to increase the danger to officers in that tunnel,” Bond wrote.

Trump supporters take over the Capitol in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Before leaving, Schwartz joined a group that pushed the police officers into the tunnel.

Stallings pleaded guilty last year to riot-related charges and was sentenced last month to two years in prison.

Schwartz was tried along with defendants Maly and Brown. In December, a jury convicted all three of assault and other felonies.

Mehta sentenced Brown last Friday to four years and six months in prison. Maly’s sentencing is scheduled for June 9.

A “misunderstanding”

The fenced Capitol, on the eve of the first anniversary of the assault. Photo: Reuters

Schwartz’s lawyers requested a prison term of four years and six months. They said their actions on January 6 were due to a “misunderstanding” about the 2020 presidential election. Then-President Donald Trump and his allies spread unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that Democrats had stolen the election from the Republican president.

“There are many scammers out there who are still free to continue spreading the ‘big lie’ that Trump won the election, most notably Donald Trump. Mr. Schwartz is not one of those individuals; he knows he was wrong,” they wrote. their defense attorneys.

Prosecutors said Schwartz has bragged about his involvement in the riots, shown no remorse and claimed his prosecution was politically motivated. He referred to the attack on the Capitol as the “start of a war” in a Facebook post a day after the riots.

“I was there and, whether people admit it or not, we are now at war,” Schwartz wrote.

$71,000 for “Patriot Pete”

Schwartz raised more than $71,000 with an online campaign titled “Patriot Pete Political Prisoner in DC.” Prosecutors asked Mehta to order Schwartz to pay a fine equal to the amount raised from his campaign, arguing that he should not benefit from his involvement in the riot.

Schwartz was on probation when he joined the riot on January 6. His criminal record includes 38 prior convictions dating back to 1991, “several of them for assaulting or threatening officers or other authority figures,” Bond wrote.

Schwartz worked as a welder in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, before his February 2021 arrest, but considers Owensboro, Kentucky, his home, according to his attorneys.

More than 100 police officers were injured during the riots. More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to January 6. Nearly 500 of them have been convicted and more than half have been sentenced to prison terms.

The 10-year prison sentence Mehta handed down to retired New York police officer Thomas Webster in September was his longest as of Friday. Webster had used a metal flagpole to assault an officer and then tackled the same officer as the mob moved toward the Capitol.

Translation: Elisa Carnelli

Michael Kunzelman is a journalist for the Associated Press.

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14 years in prison for the assault on the Capitol

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