A California man who rammed a stun gun into a police officer’s neck in one of the most violent clashes of the US Capitol riot was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison on Wednesday.
Daniel (DJ) Rodriguez shouted: “Trump won!” as he was led out of the courtroom where U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him to 12 years and seven months behind bars for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack. So far, only two other Jan. 6 defendants have received longer prison terms after hundreds of convictions for Capitol Riot cases.
The judge said Rodriguez, 40, was “a one-man army of hate, attacking police and destroying property” on Capitol Hill.
“You introduced yourself in [Washington] DC spoils for a fight,” Jackson said. “You can’t blame what you did once you got there on anyone other than yourself.”
Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone’s body camera captured him screaming in pain after Rodriguez shocked him with a stun gun as he was surrounded by a crowd.
Another rioter had dragged Fanone into the crowd outside a tunnel on the lower west terrace of the Capitol, where a line of police guarded the building’s entrance. Other rioters began beating Fanone, who lost consciousness and suffered a heart attack after Rodriguez pressed the stun gun to his neck and repeatedly shocked him.
An officer suffered career-ending injuries
Fanone addressed the judge before she imposed the sentence. The former officer described how the Jan. 6 attack prematurely ended his career in law enforcement and turned him into a target for Donald Trump supporters who cling to the lie that Democrats stole the 2020 election from the incumbent Republican.
Fanone left the courtroom in the middle of Rodriguez’s statement to the judge. He did not miss an apology from Rodriguez, who has been imprisoned for more than two years and will be credited for that time already served.
“I hope Michael Fanone will be okay one day,” Rodriguez said. “Looks like he’s in a lot of pain.”
Fanone said he left the courtroom because he didn’t care to hear his attacker’s “rambling and incoherent” statement.
“Nothing he could have said to me today would have made the slightest difference,” he said.
Fanone’s injuries ultimately ended his law enforcement career. He wrote a book about his Jan. 6 experience and testified before a House committee investigating the insurgency, which disrupted the joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
“Rodriguez’s criminal conduct on January 6 was the epitome of disrespect for the law; he fought with law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol for hours, nearly costing an officer his life, in order to prevent official proceedings from taking place indoors,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to four counts, including conspiracy and assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He pleaded guilty about two weeks before his trial began in Washington, DC.
On January 6, Rodriguez attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before joining the crowd of rioters who attacked police in the Lower West Terrance tunnel.
“Rodriguez walked to the front of the rioters fighting off the officers, shouting into his megaphone at the beleaguered line,” prosecutors wrote.
Rodriguez deployed a fire extinguisher at officers in the tunnel and pushed a wooden pole into the police line before another rioter, Kyle Young, handed him what appeared to be a stun gun, prosecutors said.
Young was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in assaulting the officer. Young grabbed Fanone by the wrist as others shouted, “Kill him!” and “Take his gun!”
After the assault, Rodriguez entered the building and smashed a window with a wooden post before leaving the Capitol grounds.
‘Blindly’ followed Trump, defense says
During an interview with FBI agents after his arrest in March 2021, Rodriguez said he believed he was doing the “right thing” on January 6 and was ready to die to “save the country.” He cried as he spoke to officers, saying he was “stupid” and was ashamed of his actions.
In the days leading up to Jan. 6, Rodriguez spewed violent rhetoric in a Telegram group chat called “PATRIOTS 45 MAGA Gang.”
“There will be blood. Welcome to the revolution,” Rodriguez wrote a day before the riot.
Rodriguez’s lawyers said he idolizes Trump, seeing the former president “as the father he wishes he had.”
“Mr. Rodriguez blindly trusted Trump and admired him so much that he called him ‘Dad’ in his social media chats until January 6,” the defense attorneys wrote, asking for a sentence of five years and five months in prison for their client.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. More than 700 of them have pleaded guilty or been sentenced after trial. And around 550 of them were sentenced, more than half of them to prison terms ranging from seven days to 18 years.
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