A California man has received a 12-year sentence for plunging a stun gun into the neck of a police officer during the 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, one of the lengthiest punishments handed down so far.
Nevertheless, Daniel “DJ” Rodriguez, 40, was defiant, crying out that “Trump won” as he was escorted by law enforcement from a federal district court in Washington, DC.
Only two other defendants in the Capitol attack have received longer prison sentences.
In announcing the sentence, Judge Amy Berman Jackson called Rodriguez a “one-man army of hate, attacking police and destroying property” during the events of January 6, 2021.
That was the day supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, in a bid to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College votes from the 2020 election. Trump had falsely claimed the election was rigged to explain his defeat in that race.
Still, Judge Jackson brushed aside defence arguments that Rodriguez was simply misled by Trump’s “irresponsible and knowingly false claims”.
“You showed up in [Washington] DC spoiling for a fight,” Jackson told Rodriguez. “You can’t blame what you did once you got there on anyone but yourself.”
Rodriguez offered his own statement to the court on Wednesday, explaining his actions by saying, “I did what I thought was right at the time.”
He also acknowledged the “great deal of pain” inflicted on Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, whose body camera captured the stun gun assault.
“I’m hopeful that Michael Fanone will be OK someday,” Rodriguez said.
Fanone, however, walked out of the courtroom in the midst of Rodriguez’s meandering, 25-minute-long speech.
The former police officer later told the Associated Press, “Nothing he could have said to me today would have made any difference whatsoever.”
He has previously credited the events of January 6 with ending his law enforcement career.
Fanone suffered a heart attack, burns and traumatic brain injuries when he was overtaken by rioters who beat him and dragged him down the Capitol steps. He has since testified about his experiences before a now-defunct House committee investigating the Capitol attack.
Rodriguez had previously pleaded guilty in February to four felony charges, including assaulting a law enforcement officer, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Prosecutors allege that Rodriguez helped lead a Telegram chat group called “PATRIOTS45MAGA Gang”, where Trump supporters gathered to organise before the attack.
According to the indictment against him, Rodriguez told one person that he would “assassinate Joe Biden” and would “rather die than live under a Biden administration”. He also wrote on the group chat, “There will be blood. Welcome to the revolution.”
Shortly afterwards, he and other members of the chat group drove across the country from California to attend Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021.
Following the rally, thousands of rioters, including Rodriguez, converged on the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was being held to certify the election results.
Prosecutors say Rodriguez joined in a “heave-ho” effort to push back a line of police officers guarding a set of double doors into the Capitol. They also claim he was seen throwing a flag pole at law enforcement and spraying a fire extinguisher.
At one point, another rioter allegedly provided him with an “electroshock weapon” that he wielded against the officers. When the mob pulled Fanone forward, Rodriguez is accused of striking him twice in the neck with the active stun gun. Fanone eventually lost consciousness.
The Justice Department has charged more than 1,000 people with crimes related to the Capitol attack, as part of a broad-reaching investigation. Nearly 500 have received sentences.
Few other defendants, however, have received a prison sentence as lengthy as Rodriguez’s.
Last month, Stewart Rhodes, leader of the far-right group the Oath Keepers, was handed 18 years — the longest sentence yet. Prosecutors had sought 25.
Before Rhodes, the lengthiest sentence had been 14 years for Peter Schwartz of Kentucky, whom prosecutors blamed for breaking the Capitol’s police line and dousing retreating officers with pepper spray.
Like Rodriguez, Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, also received 12 years in prison. He was sentenced along with Rhodes in May.