WASHINGTON (AP) — A retired Air Force officer who stormed the U.S. Capitol in riot gear and carried it into the Senate gallery in handcuffs with cable ties was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday.
Larry Brock joined other Senate rioters just minutes after then-Vice President Mike Pence, senators and their staff evacuated the chamber to escape the mob that attacked the building on Jan. 6, 2021.
US District Judge John Bates also sentenced Brock to two years of supervised imprisonment after serving his sentence and ordered him to do 100 hours of community service. Brock, who refused to speak in court before the judge handed down his sentence, remains free until he is due to report to jail at a date to be determined.
Prosecutors had recommended a five-year prison sentence, followed by a three-year supervised parole.
Bates convicted Brock in November after a trial without a jury. The judge said Brock had expressed “very disturbing” and violent rhetoric before the Jan. 6 riot. The judge read aloud several of Brock’s social media posts and called it “really quite amazing” that a former senior military officer uttered the words.
“This is scary stuff, and it reflects the purpose of stopping election confirmation,” Bates said.
Brock believed unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Republican incumbent Donald Trump, prosecutors said.
“If we get to the bottom of this conspiracy, we must execute the traitors who are trying to steal the election, and that includes the media and social media leaders who are helping and supporting the coup plotters,” Brock wrote in a statement November 9, 2020, post on Facebook.
In a Facebook message to another user on Christmas Eve on Jan. 6, Brock outlined an “plan of action if Congress doesn’t act.” One of the “principal tasks” in his plan was to “seize and seize all Democratic politicians, Biden’s key personnel and select Republicans.”
“Start interrogations using measures we used at al-Qaeda to obtain evidence of the coup,” he wrote.
Brock, a Texas native who lived in the Dallas area, flew combat missions in Afghanistan before retiring from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
His “plan of action” also called for a “general pardon for all crimes, up to and including murder, of those who restore the Constitution and crush the Democratic Uprising.”
“Do not kill LEO unless necessary,” he wrote, apparently referring to law enforcement officials.
Brock did not take part in any violent crime on January 6, but prosecutors said his behavior was “disturbingly premeditated.”
“Had the Senate gallery not been emptied minutes earlier, Brock could have faced the politicians he dreamed of seizing and interrogating,” they wrote in a court filing.
Bates convicted Brock on all six counts of his indictment, including obstructing an official hearing of the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to confirm President Joe Biden’s election victory. The charge of disability is a crime; the other five counts are misdemeanor offenses.
Defense attorney Charles Burnham said it was “inconceivable that (Brock) was motivated by anything other than a genuine concern for democracy”.
“If Mr. Brock was genuinely motivated by lofty ideals, that greatly reduces his criminal responsibility, even if the court should privately disagree with his view,” Burnham wrote in a court filing.
Brock attended the “Stop the Steal” rally where Trump addressed a crowd of supporters on Jan. 6. He was wearing a helmet and tactical vest when he joined the mob attacking the Capitol. He entered the building through Senate double doors about 12 minutes after other rioters initially breached them.
On the ground near the East Rotunda stairs, Brock picked up a discarded pair of zip-tie handcuffs. He held the “flex cuffs” in his right hand in the Senate stand. At the Senate level, he examined papers on Senators’ desks.
“This was consistent with Brock’s stated overall mandate on Jan. 6, which was to gather intelligence to halt certification and the transfer of power,” prosecutors wrote.
Brock graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1989. He was on active duty until 1998 and served in the reserve until 2014.
In a letter to the judge, a retired Air Force major general praised Brock’s military service. The major general, whose name has been blacked out from public court filings, said Brock risked his life to protect US forces from a Taliban attack by flying under mountain peaks into a valley “saturated by enemy forces.”
“The result thwarted enemy advances on US personnel, saved US lives and defused an ever-escalating situation for forces at this remote base in Afghanistan,” the major general wrote.
Brock was employed as a commercial airline pilot on January 6. His attorney said the Federal Aviation Administration revoked Brock’s licenses after his arrest in January 2021.
About 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6 riot. More than 400 of them were convicted, with more than half receiving prison sentences ranging from seven days to 10 years.
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