A bartender and self-proclaimed member of the Proud Boys extremist group received a record-breaking sentence on Monday among those convicted solely of obstructing Congress on Jan. 6.
Joshua Pruitt, 40, nearly came face to face with then-Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the lawmaker was trying to evade the mob attacking the U.S. Capitol building.
Now bound to spend more than 4.5 years behind bars, Pruitt received a 55-month sentence from U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Monday. Among Jan. 6 defendants who have pleaded guilty solely to the offense of obstructing an official proceeding, Pruitt’s appears to be the longest sentence so far, according to court filings. Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon shaman,” pleaded guilty to the same offense and was sentenced to 41 months, and Paul Hodgkins, the first to plead guilty to the charge, received a sentence of eight months.
Though Pruitt’s sentence broke a record among Jan. 6 defendants convicted solely of obstruction, the longest sentences on the U.S. Capitol docket generally went to Three Percenter militia associate Guy Reffitt, who was found guilty of five charges, including obstruction and bringing a gun to Capitol grounds. Reffitt received an 87-month sentence on Aug. 1.
Pruitt had pleaded guilty in June to obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. According to federal prosecutors, he wore a “tactical glove with knuckle pads” to the Capitol that day, when he joined the mob of Donald Trump supporters angry over Joe Biden‘s electoral win. Using a piece of fencing as a makeshift ladder, prosecutors say, Pruitt advanced up the stairs to the Upper West Terrace of the building.
Pruitt breached the building at around 2:14 p.m. He was seen on surveillance footage throwing a wooden sign and was among the first rioters to enter the Crypt, according to the government. He then moved toward the Capitol Visitor’s Center, picking up a chair and tossing it as he did so.
Prosecutors say that what happened next could have resulted in serious injury to Schumer, a top Democratic lawmaker now serving as Senate Majority Leader.
[Pruitt] then continued in the direction of the Senate subway. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and his security detail — who had evacuated from the Senate Chamber — walked up a ramp toward the elevators in the northern part of the Visitor’s Center. A member of the security detail saw Pruitt approaching. As a result, Senator Schumer and his security detail reversed course, running away from the elevator and back down the ramp. Pruitt climbed out a window to leave the building at approximately 2:52 p.m.
Pruitt was arrested that night for violating a curfew in Washington, and federal charges were filed against him the next day. He was granted pretrial release, but sent back to jail in January after multiple violations.
In a victim impact statement, one of the Capitol Police officers assigned to Schumer’s security detail said that he is still traumatized from the events of Jan. 6, including the close call with Pruitt.
“Every day I enter the beacon of our country, the U.S. Capitol, I relive the memories of that day, and none are as impactful as the moments I saw Mr. Pruitt approaching us with the intent to inflict harm to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate,” the officer, identified only as M.L. in court filings, said. “It was only due to our team[‘]s preplanning of alternate evacuations procedures and quick actions that this impending meeting did not result in blood shed or serious bodily injury to either himself or his conspirator, my fellow teammates, or the Majority Leader of the Senate.”
The 55 months issued by Kelly, a Trump appointee, was just under the 60 months that prosecutors had requested in a sentencing memo, but within the 51 to 63 months contemplated by his plea agreement. The sentence is well over the 36 months Pruitt had suggested in his memo, but it still surpasses sentences issued to Chansley and Hodgkins.
Chansley, sentenced in November by Ronald Reagan appointee Royce Lamberth, is still behind bars. Hodgkins, however, has already completed his sentence, and at a July hearing told U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss, a Barack Obama appointee, that he was getting his life back on track.
Kelly also ordered Pruitt to serve three years on supervised release once he is out of prison. Pruitt must also pay $2,000 in restitution toward the estimated $2.7 million in damage to the Capitol building.
[Images via FBI court filings.]
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