WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A former mixed martial artist filmed punching a police officer during the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol received a 41-month prison sentence on Wednesday, the stiffest punishment yet in the almost 700 criminal cases stemming from the siege.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth cited the seriousness of New Jersey gym owner Scott Fairlamb's conduct when he sentenced him. Fairlamb was captured screaming at officers by their body-worn cameras before shoving one and then punching him in the face and pleaded guilty in August.
"Had you gone to trial, I don't think there's any jury that could have acquitted you," the judge told Fairlamb.
Fairlamb was the first rioter sentenced for violence against police during the attack. Lamberth noted that his sentence will be a benchmark for the more than 120 defendants charged with attacking police during the Capitol assault by thousands of Donald Trump supporters trying to overturn his election defeat.
A Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the day after the riot and four police officers who took part in the defense of the Capitol later took their own lives. About 140 police officers were injured.
Fairlamb's lawyer had asked Lamberth to "take into consideration the approximate 11 months his client has already served in custody" and not add additional time.
An emotional Fairlamb addressed the judge during the hearing, saying he brought shame upon his family's name.
"I have nothing but remorse," Fairlamb said, later adding: "I just hope you show some mercy on me, sir."
Federal prosecutors had recommended a 44-month sentence.
Justice Department lawyer Leslie Goemaat highlighted Fairlamb's martial arts training during Wednesday's hearing, as well as earlier run-ins with the law.
"He was trained to throw a punch and was well aware of the injury he could cause," Goemaat said.
Goemaat also mentioned a video Fairlamb recorded during the riots in which he said: “What Patriots do? We f*****’ disarm them and then we storm the f*****’ Capitol!”
"The defendant's own statements on that day suggest that he came prepared for violence," Goemaat said.
'Qanon Shaman' sentencing next week
Most of the guilty pleas in Jan. 6 prosecutions have been in cases involving non-violent misdemeanors, but government lawyers are now seeking prison sentences for some defendants facing more serious felony charges.
Prosecutors in a late-night court filing recommended a four-year, three-month sentence for Jacob Chansley, the participant in the Jan. 6 riots nicknamed the "QAnon Shaman."
Lamberth, who is also handling Chansley's case, will sentence him on Nov. 17.
Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, said in a Tuesday court filing that Chansley should be released "as soon as possible," noting that he will have spent more than 10 months in pretrial detention.
"I can say with confidence that Mr. Chansley is in dire need of mental health treatment," Watkins said in the filing, adding that further time behind bars "jeopardizes his mental stability."
Some 210 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers or employees during the attack, the Justice Department said. Four people have pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement.
The assault on the Capitol followed a fiery speech in which Trump repeated his false claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud. Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump's own administration have rejected those claims as unfounded.