Man who attacked police after storming US Capitol with Confederate flag gets over 2 years in prison

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Kentucky man who stormed the U.S. Capitol while carrying a Confederate battle flag was sentenced on Monday to more than two years in prison for pepper spraying two police officers in the face, partially blinding them for hours during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

Isreal Easterday was 19 years old when he joined a mob of Donald Trump supporters in invading the Capitol. He used pepper spray to assault two Capitol police officers who were separately guarding the East Rotunda Doors.

Chief Judge James Boasberg cited Easterday's youth as a reason for handing down a prison term — two years and six months — that was over five times lower than the Justice Department's initial sentencing recommendation.

The judge said Easterday, who was homeschooled by his mother while living on a family farm, “may not have fully appreciated what was going on there” at the Capitol on Jan. 6 or recognized that the Confederate flag is a “symbol of rebellion.”

“January 6th was no less than an intent and an effort to replace by force who our country had voted for,” Boasberg said. “The mob was there because it hadn't achieved what it wanted to at the ballot box.”

Easterday tearfully apologized to the officers whom he assaulted. He said he accepts responsibility for his actions on Jan. 6 and is “deeply ashamed” of himself.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Boasberg ordered Easterday to be detained to immediately begin serving his sentence. Some of Easterday's supporters embraced each other as he was led out of the courtroom.

“I will not let you down,” Easterday told the judge after learning his sentence.

Prosecutors initially recommended sentencing Easterday to 12 years and seven months in prison. During the hearing, a prosecutor advocated for a sentence of 11 years and three months to reflect the court's lower calculation of sentencing guidelines.

“With the 2024 presidential election approaching and many loud voices in the media and online continuing to sow discord and distrust, the potential for a repeat of January 6 looms ominously. The Court must sentence Easterday in a manner sufficient to deter him specifically, and others generally, from going down that road again,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

A jury convicted Easterday last October of nine counts, including charges that he assaulted Capitol police officers Joshua Pollitt and Miguel Acevedo with pepper spray that he acquired from other rioters.

Easterday traveled from his home in Bonnieville, Kentucky, to Washington, D.C., to attend then-President Donald Trump's “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House on Jan. 6. A photograph captured Easterday holding a Confederate battle flag after he climbed a tree near the rally site.

After marching to the Capitol, Easterday joined other rioters in storming the East Plaza. He waved his flag as he pushed his through the mob to reach the the East Rotunda Doors, where he separately attacked the two officers.

Pollitt lost consciousness and collapsed in the mob after Easterday sprayed his unprotected face.

“Once Officer Pollitt regained consciousness, he was terrified by how vulnerable he had been,” prosecutors wrote. "The intense pain and vision loss continued for hours."

A video shows Easterday smirking just before he sprayed Acevedo.

"Easterday’s smirk before deploying the second cannister, having observed the effects of his first spray against Officer Pollitt, demonstrates both his callousness towards other human beings and the enjoyment he received from engaging in violence," prosecutors wrote.

Pollitt pulled other rioters into the Capitol as he entered the building. He spent roughly 13 minutes inside the Capitol.

Easterday, now 23, was arrested in December 2022 in Miami, where his boat was docked for a missionary trip to provide free bibles to churches in the Bahamas.

Prosecutors described the Confederate flag as a "symbol of treason, defiance of the law, and insurrection.” Easterday's attorneys say he has led an "extremely sheltered life" at his Amish family's farm in rural Kentucky and didn't fully understand what the flag signifies.

“Unlike other defendants who posted messages on various social media platforms voicing their support for former President Trump and otherwise encouraging violent rhetoric, Isreal used this trip as an excuse to leave his family farm, which he never did until he was about 16 or 17 years old,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing.

More than 100 police officers were injured during the Jan. 6 attack. Over 1,350 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. More than 800 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-third receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from a few days to 22 years.