The man who confessed to using a stun gun on Washington Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone on Jan. 6 has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies that could land him behind bars for more than a decade.
Daniel Rodriguez, 40, is accused of being part of the gang of rioters who assaulted Fanone during the melee at the U.S. Capitol, when Donald Trump supporters violently overwhelmed police at the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election. The pro-Trump mob eventually overwhelmed police at the Capitol and swarmed the building, forcing Congress to stop the proceedings and either flee the building or shelter in place for hours.
Fanone was one of an estimated 140 police and law enforcement officers injured that day. He was dragged into the crowd, beaten, Tasered, and robbed of his badge; he later said that he suffered a mild heart attack. Rodriguez is charged separately from Thomas Sibick, Albuquerque Cosper Head, and Kyle James Young, who have also all been charged with the assault, which was captured on Fanone’s body-worn camera.
“I got one!” a rioter yelled in an apparent reference to having overpowered the officer. A harrowing struggle followed.
“I’ve got kids!” he can be heard pleading with people attacking him moments before he apparently loses consciousness and is dragged into the Capitol building by other officers.
Although Rodriguez didn’t pull Fanone into the crowd, he admitted to having been handed an electroshock weapon from another rioter and using it on the officer. He essentially admitted as much during a March 31, 2021, interview with federal investigators.
“What do you want me to tell you?” he said at the time. “That I tased him? Yes… Am I a f—— piece of s—? Yes.”
His lawyers had unsuccessfully sought to suppress that confession. He also told investigators that he was heavily influenced by Trump acolyte and InfoWars host Alex Jones, and at one point had signaled that he would try to defend himself by arguing that he was acting under the “public authority” of the then-president.
Rodriguez entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday. He admitted to a conspiracy charge linked to two substantive offenses — obstruction of a congressional proceeding and tampering with evidence — and assaulting a police officer engaged in the performance of his official duties with a deadly or dangerous weapon. The conspiracy charge alone carries a potential five-year prison sentence, while each of the other charges has a maximum of 20 years.
Rodriguez, who is from Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, rented a car and drove across the country to attend the Jan. 6 events. According to prosecutors, Rodriguez and others had created a group chat on the Telegram app called “Patriots 45 MAGA Gang.” Activities in the chat included collecting weapons and tactical gear to bring to Washington ahead of Jan. 6 and coordinating activities before, during, and after the attack, prosecutors said. Those activities included storming the Capitol building and trying to stop the certification of the electoral vote.
“Tazzzzzed the f— out of the blue,” Rodriguez wrote in the chat at around 4:00 p.m. on Jan. 6, court documents say.
Rodriguez’s activity didn’t stop with the assault on Fanone. He admitted to entering the building through a broken window near the tunnel at the Lower West Terrace of the building. Once inside, he rummaged through bags inside an office, rifled through papers on desks, and removed emergency escape hoods from bags.
The plea agreement hearing hit a few speed bumps on Tuesday, as Rodriguez appeared to hesitate when Jackson asked him whether the Statement of Offense, which forms the factual basis for a guilty plea, was accurate.
After Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall read relevant portions of the Statement of Offense into the record, Jackson asked Rodriguez if it was a “true and accurate” representation of events.
“It is, mostly,” Rodriguez said.
“What’s not true?” Jackson asked.
At that point, Rodriguez’s attorney Rebecca Levy intervened and asked to speak privately with her client. After a moment, Levy told Jackson that there is some “contention” as to where on Fanone’s neck Rodriguez applied the stun gun — to the back of the neck, or on the side.
“You admit that during the time you were in the tunnel, someone handed you an electroshock weapon […] and you admit that you applied it to Officer Fanone’s neck, knowing that he was engaged [in his official duties]?” Jackson asked Rodriguez
“That is true, Your Honor,” he replied.
Jackson then confirmed with Rodriguez that he had signed and dated both the Statement of Offense and the plea agreement earlier Monday. He also acknowledged that he initialed and dated every page of both of those documents.
Rodriguez also seemed to think that any revocation of rights, including the right to vote and the right to carry a firearm, could later be “reversed.” Jackson said that such a reversal isn’t guaranteed.
Ultimately, the judge found that Rodriguez was knowingly and willingly making the guilty plea.
“Are you pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty and for no other reason?” she asked Rodriguez.
“Yes, Your Honor,” he replied.
The plea agreement contemplates a sentencing guidelines range of 87 to 121 months, although Jackson is not bound by that range. Paschall said that the government has reserved the right to argue for a terrorism enhancement that could result in a longer prison sentence.
Rodriguez also faces a potential fine of up to $300,000 and restitution for damage to the Capitol and medical treatment for Fanone, which Jackson said amounted to some $96,000.
Unlike some other Jan. 6 defendants who have pleaded guilty to serious charges, Rodriguez’s plea does not include a cooperation agreement.
Jackson set Rodriguez’s sentencing for May 16. He was ordered to remain in federal custody pending sentencing, and Jackson told him that he would receive credit for time served.
You can watch Fanone’s body-worn camera footage that captured the attack, below.
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