Jan 6 Rioter Gets Longest Prison Sentence Yet Of 5+ Years

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A 56-year-old man from Washington, D.C., named Mark Ponder who assaulted multiple police officers — including Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell — during last year’s Capitol riot was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Tuesday. That’s more than five years in detention.

Gonell is one of the officers who testified at a public hearing of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot about their experiences during that violence. He also spoke during the sentencing proceedings this Tuesday for Ponder. In court, Gonell outlined how his life was forever altered by what happened at the Capitol. Amid lengthy courses of treatment for his injuries, Gonell recently said his doctors concluded he shouldn’t return to what is apparently active-duty service. At the Capitol, Ponder swung at two different officers with two different poles. The first pole broke upon contact with a raised riot shield held by the first officer in self-defense. Ponder used the larger, second pole against officers in another confrontation elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, where he hit a third officer in the shoulder.

Ponder’s sentence is tied for the longest imposed so far on a Capitol rioter. Robert Palmer, a Florida resident who also assaulted police during the mob violence last year, was also sentenced to 63 months in prison. Gonell was the officer affected by the first assault Ponder perpetrated at the Capitol; it was Gonell holding up that riot shield when the pole Ponder wielded broke. Ponder was initially detained and handcuffed on the day of the riot, although he was later released and eventually arrested in March of last year on charges for his actions during the violence. He’s been jailed since that arrest. He was released from custody on the day of the riot because police couldn’t secure vehicle space to transport him.

Ponder said during his sentencing proceedings this week that he got “caught up” in what went on, although he had a particularly glaring opportunity to end his participation in the violence but continued: that detention on the day of the riot came before he later struck an officer in the shoulder. Cops instructed Ponder to leave, but he instead re-joined the crowd. Chutkan went three months above the five-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors for Ponder. She’s gone above prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations before, and she’s the same judge who imposed the 63-month prison sentence for Palmer.

“He didn’t get what he wanted,” she remarked in Ponder’s case. “And because he didn’t, he felt entitled to attack law enforcement officers who were simply doing their job.” She also addressed Ponder’s argument he’d gotten “caught up.” “This is not ‘caught up,’ Mr. Ponder,” the judge remarked on Tuesday. “He was intent on attacking and injuring police officers. This was not a protest.” The original criminal charge to which Ponder pleaded guilty prior to his sentencing was assaulting, resisting, or impeding police officers using a dangerous weapon.

Ponder — who attended Trump’s D.C. rally on January 6 — stated his commitment to election-related conspiracy theories after his arrest. “‘Cause the election, I know I shouldn’t say it, but I really feel as though it was stolen,” he told investigators. “That’s something you can’t take, right?.. The thing about it is, our Supreme Court, we have a Supreme Court here that is supposed to stand for stuff like this. And say, okay, why hasn’t the Supreme Court stepped in? Why didn’t Barr step in, at the very least, at the minimum to say ‘let’s have an investigation.’” Then-Attorney General Bill Barr actually rigorously investigated the electoral process.

Image: Brett Davis/ Creative Commons