WASHINGTON (AP) — A California man who drove a stun gun into a police officer’s neck during one of the most violent clashes of the U.S. Capitol riot was sentenced on Wednesday to more than 12 years in prison.
Daniel “D.J.” Rodriguez yelled, “Trump won!” as he was led out of the courtroom where U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him to 12 years and seven months behind bars for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. Only two other Jan. 6 defendants have received longer prison terms so far after hundreds of sentencings for Capitol riot cases.
The judge said Rodriguez, 40, was “a one-man army of hate, attacking police and destroying property” at the Capitol.
“You showed up in (Washington) D.C. spoiling for a fight,” Jackson said. “You can’t blame what you did once you got there on anyone but yourself.”
Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone ’s body camera captured him screaming out in pain after Rodriguez shocked him with a stun gun while he was surrounded by a mob.
Another rioter had dragged Fanone into the crowd outside a tunnel on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, where a line of police officers was guarding an entrance to the building. Other rioters began beating Fanone, who lost consciousness and suffered a heart attack after Rodriguez pressed the stun gun against his neck and repeatedly shocked him.
Fanone addressed the judge before she imposed the sentence. The former officer described how the Jan. 6 attack prematurely ended his law-enforcement career and turned him into a target for Donald Trump supporters who cling to the lie that Democrats stole the 2020 election from the Republican incumbent.
Fanone left the courtroom in the middle of Rodriguez’s statement to the judge. He didn’t miss an apology from Rodriguez, who has been jailed for more than two years and will get credit for that time already served.
“I’m hopeful that Michael Fanone will be okay some day,” Rodriguez said. “It sounds like he’s in a great deal of pain.”
Fanone said he left the courtroom because he didn’t care to hear his assailant’s “rambling, incoherent” statement.
“Nothing he could have said to me today would have made any difference whatsoever,” he said.
Prosecutors recommended a 14-year prison sentence for Rodriguez, who pleaded guilty in February to charges including assaulting Fanone. They also sought a fine of nearly $100,000 to offset the cost of Fanone’s medical bills and medical leave.
Fanone’s injuries ultimately ended his career in law enforcement. He has written a book about his Jan. 6 experience and testified in front of a House committee that investigated the insurrection, which disrupted the joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
“Rodriguez’s criminal conduct on January 6 was the epitome of disrespect for the law; he battled with law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol for hours, nearly costing one officer his life, in order to stop the official proceeding happening inside,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to four felony charges, including conspiracy and assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He entered the guilty plea about two weeks before his trial was scheduled to start in Washington, D.C.
On Jan. 6, Rodriguez attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before joining the mob of rioters who attacked police in the Lower West Terrance tunnel.
“Rodriguez made his way to the front of the line of rioters battling the officers, yelling into his bullhorn at the beleaguered line,” prosecutors wrote.
Rodriguez deployed a fire extinguisher at police officers in the tunnel and shoved a wooden pole at the police line before another rioter, Kyle Young, handed him what appeared to be a stun gun, according to prosecutors.
Fanone was at the front of the police line when another rioter, Albuquerque Cosper Head, wrapped his arm around the officer’s neck and dragged him out onto the terrace steps, then restrained Fanone while other rioters attacked him. Rodriguez shocked Fanone’s neck with the stun gun, below the left ear of his police helmet.
Fanone managed to retreat and collapsed behind the police line before he was taken to a hospital.
“Once inside, when officers were able to revive him after 2 minutes and 21 seconds, the first thing Officer Fanone asked was ‘did we take back that door?’” prosecutors wrote.
Rodriguez entered the building and smashed a window with a wooden pole before leaving Capitol grounds.
Head was sentenced to more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty to an assault charge.
Young also was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in the officer’s assault. Young grabbed Fanone by the wrist while others yelled, “Kill him!” and “Get his gun!”
During an interview with FBI agents after his March 2021 arrest, Rodriguez said had believed that he was doing the “right thing” on Jan. 6 and that he had been prepared to die to “save the country.” He cried as he spoke to the agents, saying he was “stupid” and ashamed of his actions.
In the days leading up to Jan. 6, Rodriguez spewed violent rhetoric in a Telegram group chat called “PATRIOTS 45 MAGA Gang.”
“There will be blood. Welcome to the revolution,” Rodriguez wrote a day before the riot.
Rodriguez’s attorneys said he idolized Trump, seeing the the former president “as the father he wished he had.”
“Mr. Rodriguez trusted Trump blindly and admired Trump so much that he referred to him as ‘dad’ in his social media chats leading up to Jan. 6th,” defense attorneys wrote, seeking a prison sentence of five years and five months for their client.
The same judge who sentenced Rodriguez also convicted a co-defendant, Edward Badalian, of three riot-related charges and acquitted him of a fourth after a trial without a jury. Jackson is scheduled to sentence Badalian on July 21.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. Over 700 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials. And approximately 550 of them have been sentenced, with over half receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 18 years.
Source : AP News