By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prosecutors have offered a plea deal to an Ohio man accused of striking a police officer during the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot and then trying to grab his gas mask as another rioter fired bear spray at police.
At a status hearing on Monday before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a representative of the U.S. Attorney's Office said prosecutors had offered a plea bargain to Clifford Mackrell, 20, of Lorain, Ohio, who faces a felony civil disorder charge and charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding police.
The prosecutor said prosecutors are willing to continue discussions. Details of a possible plea deal were not discussed.
An FBI affidavit alleged that Mackrell joined a mob of demonstrators pushing against a police line outside the Capitol and that an assailant later identified as Mackrell helped people break "through the officers’ line by pushing through a barricade."
Later, the FBI said Mackrell "while at the front of the crowd assaults a U.S. Capitol Police Officer."
"The assailant first strikes the officer multiple times," the FBI said, referring to Mackrell. "The assailant then grabs for the officer’s gas mask, under the officer’s face shield," the FBI said, adding that just before the gas-mask grab, "a member of the crowd sprays what appears to be bear-spray towards the officers."
A law enforcement official said 45 defendants charged with riot-related offences have entered guilty pleas, although some judges have questioned whether prosecutors are treating defendants too softly.
About 570 people face charges arising from the riot, in which supporters of then-President Donald Trump sought to block Congress from formally certifying Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
It was the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812, forcing lawmakers and Trump's own vice president, Mike Pence, to scramble for safety.
Four participants in the riot died on Jan. 6 and a Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by rioters died the following day. More than 100 police officers were injured.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Peter Cooney)