“Unfortunately, I let my emotions get the better of me and I am very disappointed,” defendant Alan W. Byerly, 55, told Judge Randolph D. Moss in U.S. District Court in Washington. “But make no mistake: that was no excuse for me to get my hands on anyone. … I was an antagonistic jerk, and I still don’t understand why I was like that.
Byerly, a divorced father and grandfather who lost his job as a carpenter during the pandemic, said he suffered from ‘depression, frustration and isolation’ when he traveled to Washington to attend the rally arson attack by President Donald Trump on January 6 on the Ellipse, during which Trump repeated his debunked claim that rampant voter fraud led to his defeat in the 2020 election.
Wearing an electric stun device “for protection”, Byerly said, he then joined thousands of Trump supporters as crowds stormed the Capitol as Congress gathered to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the ‘presidential election. Later, in the months leading up to his arrest in July 2021, Byerly said, “I felt so bad” about the riot that “I wouldn’t even tell the people closest to me on January 6. “.
In court papers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said Byerly, who was not charged with entering the Capitol, was present on the lower west terrace of the building when rioters accosted a photographer from the Capitol. Associated Press and dragged him down a flight of stairs.
“At the bottom of the stairs, [Byerly] and three other individuals grabbed the reporter and pushed, shoved and dragged him,” the office said in a statement. “Byerly grabbed the reporter with both hands and pushed him back. He then continued to push and drag him away from the stairs.
The journalist “was not injured and informed the government that he did not wish to participate in the investigation of this matter”, according to a court filing. Shortly after that assault, Byerly was involved in a melee on the Lower West Terrace with police who were trying to keep the crowd from entering the building, prosecutors said.
In exchange for Byerly’s guilty pleas to two counts — assaulting police officers and assaulting the photojournalist — Moss dismissed six more counts in an indictment on Friday, at the request of the U.S. attorney’s office. Those charges involved Byerly’s unauthorized presence and disorderly conduct on restricted grounds at the Capitol.
Federal sentencing guidelines, which are not mandatory, called for a prison term in the range of 37 to 46 months. While defense attorneys have called for a sentence of less than 37 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve has recommended a sentence of 46 months, saying, “The court should send a message that this behavior will not be dealt with light. … This defendant must feel the consequences of his actions.
Siding with the defense and handing down a 34-month sentence, Moss said he was “hugely impressed” with Byerly’s statement of contrition. “It seemed sincere to me,” Judge said. With credit for the 15 months Byerly has served in prison since his arrest, he still has 19 months left to serve.
Much of Friday’s courtroom debate centered on the stun device Byerly was wearing that day, whether it was a ‘dangerous weapon’ and whether it should be strongly taken into account in his sentencing. Although the device was referred to in court documents as a “stun gun”, it was more shaped like a flashlight with two prongs on the end and had to be pressed against someone’s skin to inflict a stun. electrical charge.
Byerly, who admitted waving the device during the mayhem but was not charged with stunning anyone, said he bought it for $25 at a store before heading to Washington.
Defense attorneys described the device as fairly harmless, emitting only a slight tremor. “The stun gun he had on Jan. 6 could not have caused serious harm and was therefore not a lethal or dangerous weapon,” attorney Hunter S. Labovitz argued in court. “You will feel something on your skin like a little tingle…but that won’t incapacitate you.”
Eve, the prosecutor, acknowledged that it was a “low power consumption” device, but said Byerly “clearly created the impression in the minds of the officers that they were capable of ‘be stunned and incapacitated’.
Byerly, of Fleetwood, Pa., about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia, said he had never participated in a public protest before Jan. 6 and looks forward to a quiet, law-abiding life after his stay in jail.
“What I have learned during these 15 months in prison is that disagreements over politics should never, ever, lead to riots or violence,” he told the judge. .