A New Jersey gym owner and a Washington state man on Friday became the first people charged in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol to plead guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer during the deadly siege.
There are dozens of other cases in which Capitol rioters are charged with attacking police as part of an effort to halt the certification of Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.
An attorney for Scott Kevin Fairlamb, 44, a former mixed martial arts fighter who owned Fairlamb Fit gym in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, said prosecutors are seeking a sentencing guideline range of about 3½ to 4¼ years in prison. But the judge isn't bound by that recommendation.
Later Friday, the same judge in Washington, D.C., ordered Devlyn Thompson to be jailed in Seattle after he pleaded guilty of assaulting a police officer with a dangerous weapon, a baton. Thompson, 28, of Puyallup, Washington, had been free since his participation in the Capitol riot.
The pleas came less than two weeks after a group of police officers testified at a congressional hearing about their harrowing confrontations with the mob of insurrectionists. Five officers who were at the Capitol that day have died, four of them by suicide. The Justice Department has said that rioters assaulted about 140 police officers on January 6. About 80 of them were U.S. Capitol Police officers and about 60 were from the Washington Metropolitan Police Department.
Fairlamb, whose brother is a U.S. Secret Service agent, was one of the first people to breach the Capitol after other rioters smashed windows using riot shields and kicked out a locked door, according to federal prosecutors. After leaving the building, Fairlamb harassed a line of police officers, shouting in their faces and blocking their progress through the mob, prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth set a sentencing date of September 27 for both Thompson and Fairlamb, who has been jailed since he was arrested on January 22 at his home in Stockholm, New Jersey.
Thompson wasn't arrested after he was charged last month with one count of assaulting a Metropolitan Police officer. His attorneys said in a court filing that he has autism spectrum disorder. They cited that as a reason for keeping him out of jail while awaiting sentencing.
It wasn't immediately clear what prosecutors estimate the sentencing guidelines should be for Thompson's case.
Fairlamb's lawyer, Harley Breite, said he will ask the judge for a sentence below the government's recommended guidelines.
Fairlamb's involvement in the riot has "eviscerated large parts of his life," his attorney said during an interview after Friday's remote hearing. "He has lost his business. The mortgage on his home where he lives with his wife is in peril. And he has been publicly disgraced."
Breite said his client wanted to "pay the price for what he had done and then move on with his life."
'Specific intent to obstruct'
Fairlamb pleaded guilty to two counts, obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting a Metropolitan Police officer. The counts carry a maximum of more than 20 years in prison.
"As a former MMA fighter, the defendant was well aware of the injury he could have inflicted on [the officer]," prosecutors wrote. "His actions and words on that day all indicate a specific intent to obstruct a congressional proceeding through fear, intimidation and violence, including violence against uniformed police officers."
Fairlamb's brother was one of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect first lady Michelle Obama, Breite said.
Fairlamb's social media accounts indicated that he subscribed to the QAnon conspiracy theory and promoted a bogus claim that former President Donald Trump would become the first president of "the new Republic" on March 4, prosecutors wrote.
More than 560 people have been charged with federal crimes in connection with the insurrection, and authorities are still searching for hundreds more. At least 165 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or Capitol employees, including more than 50 people charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, the Justice Department said in July.
Fairlamb and Thompson were at least the 32nd and 33rd defendants to plead guilty. Most of the others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, including parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.