On Friday, a New Jersey gym owner became the first person to plead guilty to assaulting a law enforcement officer in the January 6 riot on the United States Capitol.
Scott Kevin Fairlamb’s deal with federal prosecutors could be a benchmark for dozens of other cases in which rioters on Capitol Hill clashed with police. Fairlamb’s attorney said prosecutors would recommend jail time ranging from around 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 years, but the judge is not bound by that length of the plea agreement.
His plea comes less than two weeks after a group of police testified at a congressional hearing about their poignant confrontations with the mob of insurgents. Five officers who were on Capitol Hill that day died, four of them by suicide. The Justice Department said rioters assaulted around 140 police officers on January 6. About 80 of them were United States Capitol Police officers and about 60 were from the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department.
Fairlamb, 44, a mixed martial arts veteran whose brother is a U.S. Secret Service agent, was one of the very first rioters to enter the Capitol after other rioters smashed windows in the riot shields and smashed down a locked door, federal prosecutors said. After leaving the building, Fairlamb harassed a row of police officers, yelling at them and blocking their progress through the crowd, prosecutors wrote in a court file.
One video showed him holding a foldable stick and shouting, and shouting, âWhat are the Patriots doing? We f âââ disarm them and then we storm the f âââ Capitol! “
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth has set a September 27 sentencing date for Fairlamb, who has been in jail since his January 22 arrest at his home in Stockholm, New Jersey.
Defense lawyer Harley Breite has said he will ask the judge for a lower sentence than the guidelines recommended by the government.
Fairlamb’s involvement in the riot “has gutted a lot of his life,” his lawyer said.
âHe lost his business. The mortgage on his house where he lives with his wife is in jeopardy. And he’s been publicly disgraced, âBreite said in an interview after Friday’s remote hearing.
Breite said his client wanted to “pay the price for what he did and then move on.”
âIt wasn’t so much the case. It was about his desire to take responsibility for what he had done, to become a better person for the future and to move forward, âadded the lawyer.
Fairlamb pleaded guilty to two counts, obstructing due process and assaulting an officer of the Metropolitan Police Department. The charges carry a maximum of more than 20 years in prison.
He had been charged with 12 counts, including civil unrest, assault on a police officer and physical violence in a building or on restricted land.
Another video captured Fairlamb pushing and hitting a police officer in the head after he left the Capitol, according to the affidavit of an FBI agent.
“As a former MMA fighter, the accused was well aware of the injury he may have inflicted on (the officer),” prosecutors wrote. “His actions and words that day all indicate a specific intention to obstruct a Congressional process through fear, intimidation and violence, including violence against uniformed police officers.”
Fairlamb’s brother was one of the Secret Service agents tasked with protecting First Lady Michelle Obama, Breite said.
Fairlamb’s social media accounts indicated that he subscribed to the QAnon conspiracy theory and promoted a false claim that former President Donald Trump would become the first president of “the New Republic” on March 4, wrote prosecutors. QAnon focused on the baseless belief that Trump was fighting a cabal of Satan-worshiping and child-trafficking cannibals, including “deep state” enemies, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.
Rioters sought to interrupt President Joe Biden’s certification of electoral victory and believed Trump’s lies that he had been robbed of a second term due to massive nationwide electoral fraud. In fact, the allegations of massive fraud have been refuted by many judges, state election officials, and even by Trump’s own administration.
Devlyn Thompson, another defendant accused of assaulting an officer on Capitol Hill, is expected to plead guilty to the same judge on Friday after the Fairlamb hearing. Thompson, a resident of Washington state, was charged last month with using a baton to assault a Metropolitan Police Department sergeant.
Thompson was not arrested. His defense attorneys have said in a court file that he suffers from autism spectrum disorder. They cited this as a reason to keep him out of jail pending sentencing.
“The lawyer is currently assessing whether (Thompson) should be reviewed by an expert who could comment on the impact that (his) Asperger’s syndrome may have had on offensive driving,” they wrote.
On July 27, a House panel investigating the deadly riot heard moving testimony from four police officers who attempted to defend the Capitol when mobs of Trump supporters stormed the building.
At least nine people who were on Capitol Hill on January 6 died during or after the riots, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed after being sprayed by rioters with a chemical irritant. Four other police officers died by suicide, including two Metropolitan Police officers who were found dead in the past month.
Police shot dead a woman, Ashli ââBabbitt, who was part of a group of people trying to break down the bedroom doors of the House. Three other Trump supporters who died had suffered medical emergencies.
More than 560 people have been charged with federal crimes and authorities are still looking for hundreds more. At least 165 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or preventing officers or employees of the Capitol, including more than 50 people accused of using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious injury to an officer, the Justice Department said in July.
Fairlamb is at least the 32nd accused to plead guilty. Most of the rest pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, including marching, demonstrating or picketing at a Capitol building.