WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who used a stolen riot shield to crush a police officer in a doorframe during the U.S. Capitol insurrection was sentenced on Friday to more than seven years in prison for his role in one of the most violent episodes of the Jan. 6 attack.
Federal prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of 15 years and eight months for Patrick McCaughey III, which would have been the longest sentence for a Capitol riot case by more than five years.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced McCaughey to seven years and six months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. The judge described McCaughey, 25, as a “poster child of all that was dangerous and appalling about” the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
“Your actions are some of the most egregious crimes that were committed on that dark day,” the judge told McCaughey.
McCaughey, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, expressed shame for joining the mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters who “violated” the Capitol.
“I’m sorry that I conducted myself less like a citizen and more like an animal that day,” he said.
McCaughey’s 90-month sentence matches the second longest prison sentence so far for a Capitol riot defendant. It’s the same length as the sentence that another judge handed down to Albuquerque Cosper Head, a Tennessee man who dragged Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone into a crowd of rioters.
McCaughey was convicted by the judge of nine counts, including felony assault charges, after the judge heard trial testimony without a jury in September.
Nine people, including McCaughey, were charged together with joining one of the most brutal clashes at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Police and rioters were fighting for control of a tunnel entrance on the Lower West Terrace when MPD Officer Daniel Hodges came face to face with McCaughey, who used a stolen riot shield to pin Hodges to a metal doorframe.
“Go home!” McCaughey shouted at the officer.
Hodges, who testified at McCaughey’s trial and spoke at his sentencing hearing, said he thinks about the horrors of Jan. 6 every day.
“I do not foresee that changing anytime soon,” he told the judge, describing McCaughey as a “foot soldier” who was at “the vanguard of the assault.”
Hodges screamed out for help when another rioter grabbed the officer’s baton and struck him in the face with it.
“It was only then, over two minutes after the assault began, that McCaughey relented and pulled Officer Hodges’s face shield down over his eyes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall wrote in a court filing.
Hodges managed to retreat inside the Capitol building and was taken to a hospital. McCaughey struck a second officer with the shield before another officer sprayed him with a chemical irritant, backing him away.
“It is not an exaggeration to state the actions of these officers in thwarting the mob at the Lower West Terrace entrance potentially saved the lives of others, including members of Congress,” Paschall wrote.
The judge convicted McCaughey of obstructing an official proceeding, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying Joe Biden’s presidential election victory over Trump.
Earlier this year, the judge sentenced four of McCaughey’s co-defendants to terms of imprisonment ranging from 14 months to five years. Paschall argued that McCaughey’s conduct was more “egregious and protracted” than the others’.
A probation officer’s calculation of the sentencing guidelines for McCaughey recommend a prison term ranging from nine years to 11 years and three months.
McCaughey’s attorneys requested a sentence of one year behind bars. They said McCaughey’s “reprehensible” actions were motivated by his “misunderstanding” about the 2020 presidential election. Trump, the Republican incumbent, falsely claimed that Democrats stole the election from him.
“There remain many grifters out there who remain free to continue propagating the ‘great lie’ that Trump won the election, Donald Trump being among the most prominent. Mr. McCaughey is not one of these individuals; he knows he was wrong,” his lawyers wrote.
McCaughey, a carpenter employed by his father’s construction company, drove about 300 miles (480 kilometers) from his Connecticut home to Washington, D.C., to attend Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. After listening to speeches, McCaughey went to the Capitol and joined other rioters in confronting police officers guarding the West Plaza.
When the rioters broke through the police line, McCaughey climbed up the steps inside construction scaffolding and took a selfie atop the structure. Minutes later, he joined the mob in a coordinated “heave-ho” push against officers guarding the Lower West Terrace tunnel entrance.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the deadly Jan. 6 riot. Over 600 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials decided by a jury or a judge. Over 450 of them have been sentenced, with more than half getting terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years.
The 10-year prison sentence was for retired New York City police officer Thomas Webster, who was convicted by a jury of assaulting a Metropolitan Police Department officer with a metal flagpole.
Asked for his reaction to McCaughey’s sentence, Officer Hodges said it depends on what happens when his assailant is released from prison.
“We’ll see if he’s a changed man,” Hodges said outside the courtroom.