‘The Donald’ forum user gets more than 6 years in prison for battling officers at Capitol riot

WASHINGTON — A Trump supporter who engaged in a battle with law enforcement officers at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then bragged about his conduct on the pro-Trump forum “The Donald,” was sentenced Wednesday to 6½ years in federal prison.

Jose Padilla was sentenced to 78 months by U.S. District Judge John Bates, who convicted Padilla, 43, a disabled Army veteran, on 10 counts at a bench trial in May.

Federal prosecutors sought just over 14 years in prison, which would have been among the 10 longest sentences given to Jan. 6 rioters.

Padilla will get credit for time served in pretrial custody. He was arrested in early 2021.

“On January 6th, Padilla actively fought against the very United States he previously swore to protect, and fought to undermine the Constitution that he previously swore to defend,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo, pointing to Padilla’s military background.

In the memo, prosecutors said that Padilla bragged online that he “wanted to overthrow American democracy, in violation of his oath to defend the Constitution,” and that he “spent three hours on the West Front [of the Capitol] breaking through police lines, rallying other rioters to join him, and relentlessly berating police.” They also said he lied under oath about why he hurled a flagpole at an officer’s head.

Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. District Court Washington)

Video from Jan. 6 showed Padilla tried to rally other rioters, calling those who didn’t push against the police line “cowards.” He later complained online about other Jan. 6 participants, saying they were “pathetic little LARPers” — live action role players — who “only pretend” to be patriots.

Many of Padilla’s online comments were made on “The Donald” forum, which frequently features violent rhetoric about former President Donald Trump’s perceived enemies.

“We were actually trying to take back our Republic and attacking the Seat of Power,” Padilla said. “We were attempting to restore the Republic by dissolving the legislature and convening a constitutional convention of the people.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Brasher argued Wednesday that Padilla “not only viewed January 6th [as] necessary, but as a beginning.” Personal responsibility “is the cornerstone of a justice society,” and Padilla showed none, Brasher said.

Padilla’s defense attorney, Michael Cronkright, said his client was “somewhat of a loner” until he “foolishly” engaged with like-minded people online related to the 2020 election.

Cronkright on Wednesday brought up Padilla’s family situation, as did Padilla himself, indicating that his family is in deep poverty and that his continued incarceration would create significant problems for the family.

“This is going to be more of hardship on his family than it is on him,” Cronkright said.

The defense cited Padilla’s family situation in asking for “substantial” home confinement, in addition to time already served.

Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. District Court Washington)

Jose Padilla at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. District Court Washington)

Padilla, standing before Bates, the judge, gave an emotional apology before his sentencing.

“I want to apologize to the officers,” he said. “My actions that day were not in keeping with my character.”

Padilla said he “regrets” any harm he caused. “I can only ask for your forgiveness,” he said.

Padilla went on to say that for a few months after Jan. 6, he was not as remorseful as he is now, referring to social media posts that called for violence. “Remorse is rarely immediate, sir,” he told Bates.

Bates called Padilla’s remarks a “genuine expression” of remorse. “But it’s awfully late in the game,” he said before he gave a sentence well below the guidelines range.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com


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