Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Ex-Firefighter Who Threw Extinguisher at Police at Capitol Gets Prison

A retired firefighter who threw a fire extinguisher at a group of police officers during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has been sentenced to more than four years in prison, federal officials said Tuesday.

Prosecutors said the former firefighter, Robert Sanford, 57, of Boothwyn, Pa., had struck three police officers in the head with the extinguisher, injuring at least two of them. Mr. Sanford, who later said he had gone to the Capitol at the direction of former President Donald J. Trump, also threw a traffic cone at the officers and called them “traitors,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sanford was sentenced to 52 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release after having pleading guilty in September to assaulting law enforcement officers with a dangerous weapon. Other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Mr. Sanford was also ordered to pay more than $5,500 in restitution to the Capitol and for medical expenses incurred by one of the injured officers, federal officials said.

More than 300 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot, and by January, nearly 200 defendants had been sentenced to prison time, the Department of Justice said. Among the longest sentences was a 10-year term handed down in September to a retired New York City police officer who swung a metal flagpole at a Washington officer.

On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Sanford boarded an early-morning bus organized by the conservative nonprofit group Turning Point USA to attend Mr. Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally, according to court documents. After returning home, he told a friend he had “followed the President’s instructions” to proceed to the Capitol, according to a criminal complaint filed on Jan. 13, 2021. He was arrested the following day.

In August 2022, Mr. Sanford sought therapy and began working with a “cult deprogramming” specialist to try to understand his behavior on Jan. 6, according to court documents filed by his lawyer. He learned that the websites he had been relying on for news had sent him deeper into conspiratorial rabbit holes, according to the documents, which note that one of his motivations for attending the rally had been “simply to be around people who agreed with him as opposed to his friends and family members who did not agree with his beliefs.”

Mr. Sanford’s lawyer, Andrew M. Stewart, said in an interview on Tuesday that although his client had been hoping for a shorter sentence, he understood the court’s rationale. “He is very much a libertarian, and very much got caught up in the mob mentality,” Mr. Stewart said. “He’s prepared to accept responsibility.”

Mr. Stewart said that before Jan. 6, his client had not attended political gatherings. Now, he added, “he’s done with politics, and he’s done with rallies.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said by email on Tuesday that it would not comment on any Jan. 6 cases.

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