Man gets 14 years in 1/6 case, longest sentence ever handed down
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Kentucky man with a long criminal record was sentenced Friday to a record-breaking 14 years in prison for assaulting police officers with pepper spray and a chair stormed the US Capitol with his wife.
Peter Schwartz’s prison sentence is the longest so far in hundreds of riots at the Capitol. The judge who convicted Schwartz also handed down the longest prison sentence to date – 10 years – on a retired officer of the New York City Police Department who assaulted a police officer in front of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The public prosecutor had recommended a prison sentence of 24 years and 6 months for the welder Schwartz.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Schwartz to 14 years and two months in prison, followed by three years of supervised imprisonment.
Mehta said Schwartz was a “soldier against democracy” who was involved in “the kind of chaos and mayhem that had never been seen in the history of the country.”
“You are not a political prisoner,” the judge told him. “You are not one to stand up against injustice or fight against an autocratic regime.”
Speaking to the judge briefly before hearing his verdict, Schwartz said, “I sincerely regret the damage that January 6th has done to so many people and their lives.”
The judge said he did not believe Schwartz’ testimony, noting his lack of remorse.
“They took it upon themselves to injure several police officers that day,” Mehta said.
Schwartz was armed with a wooden tire beater when he and then-wife Shelly Stallings joined other rioters in overpowering a line of police officers on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, where he threw a folding chair at officers.
“By throwing that chair, Schwartz contributed directly to the fall of the police line, which allowed rioters to rush to the front and take over the entire patio.” Prosecutor Jocelyn Bond wrote in a court filing.
Schwartz, 49, also armed himself with a police-issued “Super Soaker” canister of pepper spray and sprayed it at retreating officers. Schwartz advanced to a tunnel entrance and coordinated with two other rioters, Markus Maly and Jeffrey Brown, to spray an orange liquid at police officers who clashed with the mob.
“Although the jet of liquid did not hit any officers directly, it increased the danger to officers in this tunnel,” Bond wrote.
Before leaving, Schwartz joined a “heave ho” push against police in the tunnel.
Stallings pleaded guilty to riot-related charges last year and was sentenced to two years in prison last month.
Schwartz was tried with co-defendants Maly and Brown. In December, a jury convicted all three of assault and other felonies.
Mehta sentenced Brown to four years and six months in prison last Friday. Maly is due to be sentenced on June 9th.
Schwartz’s attorneys sought a four-year, six-month prison sentence. They said his actions on Jan. 6 were motivated by a “misunderstanding” about the 2020 presidential election. Then-President Donald Trump and his allies have been promoting baseless conspiracy theories that the Democrats stole the election from the Republican incumbent.
“There are still many scammers out there who can continue to spread the ‘big lie’ that Trump won the election, with Donald Trump being one of the most prominent. Mr. Schwartz is not one of those people; he knows he was wrong” wrote his defense attorneys.
Prosecutors said Schwartz boasted about his participation in the riots, showed no remorse and claimed his prosecution was politically motivated. He described the attack on the Capitol as “the opening of a war” in a Facebook post the day after the riot.
“I was there and whether people recognize it or not, we are at war now,” Schwartz wrote.
Schwartz has raised over $71,000 from an online campaign called Patriot Pete Political Prisoner in DC. Prosecutors asked Mehta to order Schwartz to pay a fine equal to the amount collected by his campaign, arguing that he should not benefit from taking part in the riots.
Schwartz was on probation when he joined the January 6 riot. His criminal record since 1991 includes a “staggering” 38 convictions, “several of which involved assaulting or threatening a public official or other authority figure,” Bond wrote.
Schwartz worked as a welder in Uniontown, Pennsylvania prior to his February 2021 arrest, but he considers his home in Owensboro, Kentucky, according to his attorneys.
More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots. More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to January 6th. Almost 500 of them were convicted, more than half received prison sentences.
The 10-year sentence Mehta imposed on retired NYPD officer Thomas Webster in September had remained the longest as of Friday. Webster had used a metal flagpole to attack an officer and then attacked the same officer as the mob advanced on the Capitol.