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Ohio man seen hanging from tunnel during violent Capitol clash on Jan. 6 sentenced for felony convictions


David Mehaffie is seen at the Lower West Terrace tunnel entrance of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (via FBI court filing).

An Ohio man who positioned himself over the riotous crowd of Donald Trump supporters facing off against law enforcement at a tunnel on U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 will spend more than a year behind bars.

David Mehaffie, 63, of Kettering, Ohio, was sentenced to 14 months in prison after being convicted at a bench trial of two felony charges, the Justice Department announced Friday. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, also sentenced Mehaffie to six months on two misdemeanor charges, which the defendant will be allowed to serve at the same time as the longer felony sentence.

Mehaffie is one of nine men charged in the confrontation at the Lower West Terrace tunnel that injured Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges, who was crushed in a doorway. He and co-defendants Patrick McCaughey III and Tristan Chandler Stevens were convicted in September following a bench trial before McFadden.

According to prosecutors, Mehaffie took a leadership role in urging the crowd to keep pushing against the police line trying to keep rioters out of the Capitol, where Congress had begun to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral win. As officers from U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police tried to hold the line against the crowd at the tunnel entrance, Mehaffie, McCaughey, and Stevens continued to whip the mob into an angry frenzy.

“Between 2:41 p.m. and 3:19 p.m., the three defendants attempted to break into the building by directing other rioters, participating in heave-hos against the police line, using riot shields stolen from the Capitol Police, and assaulting three specific officers,” the Justice Department’s press release said. “Mehaffie hung from an archway and shouted direction from above, and McCaughey and Stevens were key players in the melee below.”

Before the confrontation at the tunnel, Mehaffie had taunted police officers and encouraged other rioters to continue moving toward the building.

“If we can’t fight over this wall, we can’t win this battle!” he allegedly yelled at fellow Trump supporters who appeared to be hesitating in illegally crossing over to Capitol grounds.

Mehaffie was convicted of two felony charges: aiding and abetting in assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers and interfering with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder. He was also convicted of two misdemeanor charges: disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and aiding and abetting in committing an act of violence in the Capitol building or grounds.

Prosecutors requested a sentence of 64 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and $2,000 in restitution.

“For the twenty-six minutes that Mehaffie perched himself at the tunnel entrance, he was, in every sense of the word, a leader,” the government argued in its sentencing brief. “He directed. He coordinated. He commanded. He assisted. He encouraged. Everything that one would expect of a good leader, David Mehaffie stepped up. For those twenty-six minutes, he led the rioters in a coordinated attack on officers, resulting in untold injuries and a lifetime of terrifying memories for the officers who faced down the mob.”

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The sentence from McFadden, a Trump appointee with a history of bench trial acquittals in Jan. 6 cases, hewed much more closely to the six to 12 months requested by defense attorney William Shipley, who argued that the calculation placing his client’s potential sentence between 46 and 57 months was “clearly erroneous” because he wasn’t convicted of “any assaultive conduct either as a principal or aider and abettor.”

McFadden had convicted Mehaffie’s co-defendants Robert Morss, Geoffrey William Sills, and David Lee Judd in August of obstruction of an official proceeding, a 20-year felony, and other felonies and misdemeanors. Judd is expected to be sentenced on Monday, while Morss and Sills are scheduled to be sentenced in March.

In addition to the 14 months in prison, Mehaffie will spend two years on supervised release.

“A decision on restitution is pending,” the Justice Department press release said.

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