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Former KC-area Proud Boy, decorated Marine vet gets brief prison time in Jan. 6 case

A former Kansas City-area Proud Boy and Marine Corps combat veteran accused of conspiring with others in the group to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced Friday to 75 days in prison.

Christopher Kuehne also received 24 months of supervised release, which includes 60 days of home detention, and must pay $2,000 restitution for damage to the Capitol, which the government says was more than $2.9 million, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled.

Kuehne, 50, who lived in Olathe at the time of the riot, was charged with multiple felonies for conspiring to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He pleaded guilty in September to obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Kuehne’s sentencing was held in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Prosecutors had asked for a six-month prison sentence, three years of supervised release and $2,000 restitution.

He is the eighth of the 10 Kansas residents charged in connection with the Capitol riot to be sentenced. The cases of the other two are scheduled for jury trials in June and July.

Kuehne was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2021 along with three other Kansas City-area Proud Boys — William Chrestman, of Olathe; Ryan Ashlock, of Gardner; and Louis Colon, of Blue Springs — and Tucson, Arizona, siblings Cory and Felicia Konold.

The six were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, civil disorder and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. Chrestman also was charged with threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and carrying a wooden ax handle while in the Capitol building and on the grounds.

The government said in its sentencing memorandum that Kuehne was a vocal advocate of violence against their perceived adversaries in the lead-up to Jan. 6.

“On January 3, in a planning chat with other Kansas City Proud Boys members and prospects, he told the group: ‘Be prepared not only to beat down but when you do action of violence so utterly massive that we send a message,’” the memorandum said. “He later continued: ‘This is going to get kinetic quick. If a soy boy or girl wants to get it on they need to expect a hospital trip...its the only thing they understand.’”

Kuehne drove to Washington with other Proud Boys from the Kansas City area, the document said, bringing at least one AR-15 style rifle with him on the trip. They stayed in a rental property on Jan. 5, it said, and Kuehne “continued to encourage and instruct the others in tactical preparations for the activities of the next day.”

He stressed the importance of having a recognizable identifier, such as a piece of reflective tape, that would allow the group’s members to recognize one another in the crowd, the document said.

The morning of Jan. 6, the government’s filing said, Kuehne and the others went to the national mall “outfitted for violence” and wearing orange tape Kuehne had bought and distributed. Kuehne could be seen in photos and videos from that day with two rolls of tape strapped to a backpack and a strip of tape on the back of the ballistic helmet he was wearing.

The group met up with a larger crowd of about 100 Proud Boys, it said, and they all marched from the Washington Monument to the Capitol building. After passing through multiple police barricades and watching the increasingly violent crowd fight with police on the west front of the Capitol for more than an hour, Kuehne eventually entered the building at the Senate Wing Door, where the building had first been breached 12 minutes earlier.

A group that included Kuehne and other Kansas City Proud Boys chased police officers out of the Crypt and into an area leading to the Capitol Visitor Center, the document said. Officers tried to escape to safety behind an overhead gate that was being lowered.

But Kuehne, together with Chrestman and another Kansas City Proud Boy, worked together to drag a movable podium into the path of the door, it said. The rioters then moved into the Capitol Visitor Center. Soon after, when they learned that a shooting had occurred near the House floor, they left the building.

In the days after the riot, the government’s document said, Kuehne destroyed evidence of the crime and told others in the group to delete their messages and photos, keep a low profile and stop texting one another.

Kuehne’s own sentencing memorandum described a much different story.

It said Kuehne was an exceptional child who at age 9 saved his 2-year-old sister from a burning car and began working at age 13. He served multiple tours of duty in the military, became a decorated Marine veteran whose many awards include the Purple Heart medal and gave the commands for the 21-gun salute at former President Ronald Reagan’s private funeral. And he joined the Proud Boys because they were “supposed to help protect patriots from violent Antifa groups.”

Kuehne entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 “to safeguard the property” and disassociated himself from the Proud Boys afterward, his sentencing document said.

“Mr. Kuehne also stopped an individual from stealing an item from the Capitol Building, stopped people from breaking items, made people clean up trash, and stopped a man from smoking marijuana in an office of the Capitol Building,” it said.

After his arrest, the document said, he went to college, got a master’s degree in business administration, is now working on a second master’s degree and prepaid his $2,000 restitution prior to sentencing as a good-faith gesture.

Kuehne’s filing mentions an FBI informant it referred to as “Aaron” who traveled to Washington with the KC Proud Boys and participated in the riot with them. The document said “Aaron” had asked Kuehne to help him move the podium inside the Capitol, and the two placed it under the metal gate as it was closing.

“‘Aaron’ later explained to his FBI handlers that the reason to move the podium was to prevent rioters from tearing it down and using the metal pieces of the gate as weapons,” it said. The filing also said that “‘Aaron’ was asked by the FBI what Christopher Kuehne did inside of the Capitol, to which ‘Aaron’ responded — ‘He made people pick up trash. And he helped de-escalate the standoff with cops.’”

The government filed a motion on Tuesday, saying the informant — who testified at Proud Boy leader Ethan Nordean’s trial last year — was an unreliable witness and that the “credibility of his reporting was impeached” on several issues.

“The Court should view these statements with skepticism,” it said. “As a participant in the riot on January 6 who entered the Capitol building without authorization from his FBI handlers, the CHS (confidential human source) had a profound incentive to minimize his own culpability and that of his companions.”

Kuehne argued in his filing that there had been a major disparity in sentences of Capitol rioters compared to those of Black Lives Matter protesters.

“The overt disparity between the Government’s choice to only pursue violent agitators from left-wing protests, and yet all individuals from the January 6 protest, yields an unavoidable conclusion: had a January 6 participant committed certain acts in the middle of a BLM protest he would have gotten off scot-free, but because that individual committed such acts in the middle of a Trump protest he was charged,” it said. “That political discrepancy is very troubling.”

In its sentencing document, the government said that while Kuehne had apologized in a written statement, the apology showed that he had not accepted full responsibility for his actions.

“When addressing the harm that his crime caused, Kuehne acknowledges only the impact on himself and his family,” the government’s filing said. “He makes no mention whatsoever of the injuries to persons and the damage to property that occurred on January 6, let alone the damage to the country’s democratic institutions.”

Kuehne’s apology also seeks to minimize his own conduct that day, the government’s document said.

“In a claim that strains credulity, he insists that he ‘only entered the Capitol Building to protect property that [he] believed was going to be destroyed by the crowd,’” it said.

And though Kuehne said he refused to formally join the Proud Boys after seeing what they had done at the Capitol, the document said, “his phone contained a deleted message from the night of January 6, after the riot had concluded, in which the sender told Kuehne ‘Congrats on the first degree,’ an apparent reference to the first level of formal Proud Boys initiation.”

“If Kuehne received his ‘first degree’ on the evening of January 6,” the government said, “ that is not a disavowal of the group’s conduct — it is a celebration.”

Court records indicate Kuehne has moved to Arizona since his arrest. Chrestman, who prosecutors said was a key player in the riot, pleaded guilty in October to obstruction of an official proceeding and threatening a federal officer, both felonies. He was sentenced in January to 55 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution.

Colon pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of civil disorder, a felony. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A status report filed with the court in November requested that the court continue to hold off setting a sentencing date because Colon’s “potential cooperation” in the case was “not yet complete.”

Ashlock was sentenced to 70 days in jail and 12 months of supervised release in November 2022 after pleading guilty to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, a misdemeanor.

The Konolds pleaded guilty in November to a felony charge of obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting. Felicia Konold was sentenced to 45 days in prison and 24 months of supervised release. Cory Konold was sentenced to 30 days in prison and 24 months of supervised release.