September 29, 2022

During the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Joshua Pruitt, a bartender, personal trainer and aspiring Proud Boys member from Silver Spring, Md., wore a tactical glove and an ankle monitor from a recent offense and climbed a makeshift ladder into the building, according to prosecutors, “seeking to overturn the election.”

Mr. Pruitt, now 40, was the ideal Proud Boys recruit, they said: He advertised his desire to participate in the violence; took part in standoffs between the mob and the police and at one point, came face to face with Senator Chuck Schumer’s group after they fled the Senate chamber. According to court documents and widely shared video footage, the senator was ushered quickly in the opposite direction by his security team.

“One look at Pruitt, and the leader of Senator Schumer’s security detail immediately saw the threat,” Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote in the government’s sentencing memorandum.

“This Proud Boys initiate was a one-man symbol of the angry mob at the Capitol that day,” he added. Mr. Graves’s office prosecuted the case together with counterterrorism officials at the Department of Justice.

On Monday, a federal judge sentenced Mr. Pruitt to 55 months in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release on a felony charge stemming from his actions during the breach. He also must pay $2,000 in restitution.

“There was nothing patriotic about what happened that day, far from it,” Judge Timothy J. Kelly of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia said Monday in court, NBC News reported. He added, “It was a national disgrace.”

Mr. Pruitt’s lawyer, Robert L. Jenkins Jr., said by phone on Monday that he and his client were disappointed with the outcome.

“He did not possess any weapons; did not assault any law enforcement officers and did not get in any physical altercations with anyone else on that day,” Mr. Jenkins said, adding that his client had received the longest sentence of anyone who had pleaded guilty and was not convicted of assaulting any law enforcement officers.

“He acknowledged that what he did on Jan. 6 was wrong, but in comparison,” Mr. Jenkins added, “his sentence is particularly harsh.”

According to prosecutors, at about 12:30 p.m. on the day of the attack, Mr. Pruitt, who at that time was in the process of joining the Proud Boys, marched toward the Capitol together with the far-right group, wearing a cutoff T-shirt with the logo of the Punisher, an antihero known for enacting violent vigilante justice.

By about 2:10 p.m., he was on a restricted area of the Capitol’s Northwest Lawn, where he saw rioters push through a line of law enforcement officers and go up the stairs to the Upper West Terrace. Mr. Pruitt followed them using a “makeshift ladder,” prosecutors said.

At about 2:14 p.m., he leaped over a railing and then entered the Capitol through the Senate Wing Door. Mr. Pruitt threw a wooden sign, and he was one of the first rioters to enter the Crypt. He then moved to the Capitol Visitor Center, they said, where he “picked up a chair and tossed it.”

It was at this time that Mr. Schumer and his security detail, who had evacuated from the Senate Chamber, were walking up a ramp toward the elevators in the northern part of the visitor center, according to prosecutors. A member of the security detail, they said, saw Pruitt approaching and “reversed course, running away from the elevator and back down the ramp.”

At about 2:52 p.m., Mr. Pruitt climbed out of the building through a window. He was arrested that night for violating a curfew in effect in the city. He was later indicted on several charges, including civil disorder, destruction of government property and acts of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or buildings.

Mr. Pruitt pleaded guilty in June to a charge of obstruction of an official proceeding. Mr. Jenkins, his lawyer, said that other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

In an email, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer said the senator “expresses his deepest appreciation for the heroic work of the Capitol Police on Jan. 6 and every day to keep the Capitol and all who work there safe.”

In the government’s sentencing memorandum, prosecutors had argued that Mr. Pruitt should receive a 60-month sentence.

They said that even while wearing an electronic ankle monitor, Mr. Pruitt — who had just days earlier been released on probation after being charged with violating a temporary protective order obtained by a former girlfriend — had advertised his desire to participate in the violent attack.

After his arrest, they added, “the defiant Pruitt doubled down, spreading false information about the riot, claiming he had done nothing wrong and had no regrets.” In a series of social media videos, prosecutors said, Mr. Pruitt “continued to espouse violence and threaten others.”

Mr. Jenkins said that his client had no plans to appeal the decision because he “just wants to move on with his life.” While his client regretted his behavior during the attack, he added, he still believed the claims of election fraud. Those claims have been shown to be baseless.

Michael Levenson contributed reporting.

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