A Maryland man who admitted to attacking police officers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced on Sept. 22 to five years in prison.
Rodney Milstreed, 56, of Finksburg, pleaded guilty to assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon and to two other counts, in exchange for other charges being dropped.
According to the plea agreement, Mr. Milstreed on Jan. 6 threw a wooden pick handle with a flag attached into a line of U.S. Capitol Police officers outside of the Capitol as they tried to prevent a crowd from advancing toward the building.
The handle struck a police officer's helmet.
Mr. Milstreed, a machinist, also grabbed a backpack carried by an Associated Press photographer, causing the photographer to be yanked down a set of stairs. He then shoved the photographer.
In messages to friends later in the day, Mr. Milstreed celebrated what happened.
"We [expletive] them federal cops up. They all ran when we got physical," he wrote in one.
“I did get to punch a camera man with everything I had brother I felt good," he wrote in another.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, a nominee of President Barack Obama, said at sentencing on Sept. 22 that "it's very serious conduct" but that he did believe Mr. Milstreed was remorseful, the Associated Press reported.
“I know what I did that day was very wrong," Mr. Milstreed told the judge.
Former Capitol Police Officer Devan Gowdy, who suffered a concussion, told Judge Boasberg that Jan. 6 "is a day that will be burned into my brain and my nightmares for the rest of my life."
In a handwritten letter sent to the judge ahead of sentencing, Mr. Milstreed wrote that he'd learned from his mistakes. “I realize if one has concerns or grievances with the government, there are peaceful and appropriate ways to express them," he said.
The five-year sentence for Mr. Milstreed was closer to the six years and six months recommended by prosecutors than to the time served requested by lawyers for Mr. Milstreed.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Milstreed's actions "were calculated to influence and affect the conduct of government by intimidation and coercion, and to retaliate against government conduct."
They cited posts in which he said he was intending to "crack some skulls" on Jan. 6 and, afterward, how what he did was done to "put the fear of God" in politicians.
Prosecutors said that a lengthy sentence would communicate the seriousness of the crimes and "promote respect for the law."
Defense lawyers said that Mr. Milstreed is regretful, has already been jailed for more than 15 months, and is ready to “return to society” a “smarter person, citizen, and a better American.”
They noted that while behind bars, he earned his General Educational Development (GED) diploma, and completed a construction course and a manufacturing course.
Other mitigating circumstances were conveyed to the judge but redacted in the defense's sentencing memorandum.
Family members and friends told the judge that Mr. Milstreed has done good deeds over the years and said that they believe he has learned from what happened.
Mr. Milstreed was arrested in May 2022 in Colorado, where he was working. Agents found illegal steroids in his hotel room and firearms in his home, including some that were illegally possessed.
He told FBI agents in an interview that he was unhappy with how the 2020 presidential election had gone and said that he didn't intend to commit violence on Jan. 6.
In calls with his girlfriend from jail, he said that "all I did was go to a protest and act like an idiot" and that people went to the Capitol for the purpose of "standing up for the country they love."
"They’re just making all us people that went to that Capitol pay—pay," he said. "Pay for standing up against the government.”