A retired Air Force officer who stormed the US Capitol dressed in combat gear and carried zip-tie handcuffs into the Senate gallery has been sentenced to two years in prison.
Larry Brock joined other rioters on the Senate floor only minutes after then-vice president Mike Pence, senators and their staff evacuated the chamber to escape the mob attacking the building on January 6, 2021.
US District Judge John Bates also sentenced Brock to two years of supervised release after his prison term and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service.
Brock, who declined to speak in court before the judge imposed his sentence, remains free until he must report to prison at a date to be determined.
Judge Bates convicted Brock in November after a trial without a jury. The judge said Brock expressed “very troubling” and violent rhetoric before the January 6 riot.
The judge read aloud several of Brock’s social media postings calling it “really pretty astounding” that a former high-ranking military officer expressed those words.
“That’s chilling stuff, and it does reflect a purpose to stop the certification of the election,” the judge said.
Brock believed baseless conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Republican incumbent Donald Trump, prosecutors said.
“When we get to the bottom of this conspiracy we need to execute the traitors that are trying to steal the election, and that includes the leaders of the media and social media aiding and abetting the coup plotters,” Brock wrote in a November 9, 2020, post on Facebook.
In a Facebook message to another user on Christmas Eve, Brock outlined what he called a “plan of action if Congress fails to act” on January 6. One of the “main tasks” in his plan was to “seize all Democratic politicians and Biden key staff and select Republicans.”
“Begin interrogations using measures we used on al Qaida to gain evidence on the coup,” he wrote.
His “plan of action” also called for a “general pardon for all crimes up to and including murder of those restoring the Constitution and putting down the democratic insurrection”.
“Do not kill LEO unless necessary,” he wrote, apparently referring to law enforcement officers.
Brock did not engage in any violence on January 6, but prosecutors said his behavior was “disturbingly premeditated”.
“Had the Senate Gallery not been emptied minutes before, Brock could have come face-to-face with the politicians he had fantasised about seizing and interrogating,” they wrote in a court filing.
Judge Bates convicted Brock of all six charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding, the January 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Defense lawyer Charles Burnham said it is “inconceivable that (Brock) was motivated by anything other than genuine concern for democracy”.
“If Mr. Brock was sincerely motivated by high ideals, it significantly reduces his culpability even if the court should privately disagree with his view,” Mr Burnham wrote in a court filing.
Brock attended the “Stop the Steal” rally where former president Donald Trump addressed a crowd of supporters on January 6.
On the floor near the East Rotunda stairs, Brock picked up a discarded pair of zip-tie handcuffs. He held the “flex-cuffs” in his right hand in the Senate gallery. On the Senate floor, he examined paperwork on senators’ desks.
“This was consistent with Brock’s stated overall mission on January 6, which was intelligence gathering to stop the certification and the transfer of power,” prosecutors wrote.
Brock graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1989. He was on active duty until 1998 and served in the reserves until 2014.
In a letter to the judge, a retired Air Force major general praised Brock’s military service. The major general, whose name was redacted from public court filings, said Brock risked his life to protect US forces from a Taliban attack, flying below mountain peaks into a valley “saturated with enemy forces”.
“The result thwarted enemy advances on US personnel, saved US lives and defused an ever-escalating situation for the forces at that remote base in Afghanistan,” the major general wrote.
Approximately 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6 riot. More than 400 of them have been sentenced, with over half getting terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years.
At least 70 of the sentenced rioters have served in the military, according to an Associated Press review of court records.
Also on Friday, a rioter who signed up for the Air Force after assaulting police at the Capitol was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
Aiden Bilyard was 18 when he sprayed a chemical irritant towards a line of police officers before using a baseball bat to smash a window at the Capitol.
Bilyard was attending basic training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, when the FBI questioned him several months after the riot.
He later separated from the Air Force and returned home to Cary, North Carolina. Bilyard, now 20, pleaded guilty to an assault charge last year.