US: Man gets record-tying 63-month sentence for role in Jan 6 Capitol riots

He was also ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution



Photo: AP
Photo: AP

By Reuters

Published: Wed 27 Jul 2022, 9:02 AM

On Tuesday, Mark Ponder, a District of Columbia (DC) man who pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers outside the US Capitol, was sentenced on Tuesday to 63 months behind bars, tying the record for the longest prison term to date for anyone convicted in the Capitol riots of Jan 6, 2021.

Ponder, 56, was also ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution, and faces three years of supervised release, following his federal prison term of five years and three months, the US Department of Justice said, while announcing his sentence.

According to court documents pertaining to the case, Ponder assaulted three officers in a series of confrontations on the Capitol grounds, after a mob of supporters of the then-president Donald Trump overwhelmed police lines on the West Plaza of the building, on the afternoon of the incident.

The ensuing riots led to several deaths, left more than 140 police officers injured, and delayed a joint session of Congress in certifying the November 2020 presidential election victory of Democrat Joe Biden over Trump— the Republican incumbent who falsely claimed he lost due to widespread fraud, and summoned supporters to Washington to "stop the steal".

Arrested on March 17, 2021, Ponder pleaded guilty in April 2022 to charges of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) statement, he swung a pole at a US Capitol Police officer, striking the officer's riot shield and breaking the pole in two, before arming himself with a thicker pole that he wielded against other officers, striking one of them on the shoulder.

At Tuesday's hearing, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan said that Ponder "was leading the charge" as "part of a group who, when they couldn't get what they wanted, decided they were going to take it, and they were going to take it with violence," as per a report from The Washington Post.

The 63-month-long sentence levied against Ponder matches the prison term imposed in December against a Florida man, Robert Scott Palmer, convicted for throwing a wooden plank and a fire extinguisher at the police during the Jan 6 riots. Palmer's sentence was then the longest yet, stemming from the attack on the Capitol.

More than 850 people have been charged with taking part in the terrible riots, said to be the most violent assault on the halls of Congress since the British invasion of Washington, during the War of 1812. Till date, more than 325 guilty pleas have been entered in connection with the Jan 6 upheaval.

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