A Montgomery County man who beat a Washington, D.C. police officer with a Trump flag during the U.S. Capitol riot was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison on Friday – one of the longest sentences severe inflicted to date in the 6 January attack.
Howard Richardson, 72, of the King of Prussia, apologized to the court during a sentencing hearing in Washington saying “there is no excuse” for his behavior that day. Still, he stressed that the officer involved was not seriously injured and pleaded for a court pardon.
“I’m a good citizen,” he told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly during a hearing in Washington. “I have been a good neighbour. … I went down [to Washington] as a patriotic citizen to celebrate. I got sucked into this mob mentality.
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Richardson noted that he is a Vietnam veteran and his son has been a police officer for nearly two decades. But Kollar-Kotelly said Richardson’s military service and family ties to the police should have made him even more aware that his actions that day were indefensible.
“Violence is an unacceptable way to resolve political differences,” she said. “Your presence and actions in joining other insurgents was an inexcusable attack on our democracy. … You should appreciate what an amazing country you live in.
The 46-month prison sentence Kollar-Kotelly imposed on Friday is the longest yet for one of 21 Pennsylvania defendants who have been convicted so far of playing a role in the Capitol Riot, which caused millions of dollars in damage, injured dozens of officers, and threatened the peaceful transition of power.
More than 70 people from the state have been charged so far, most with misdemeanors for unlawfully entering the Capitol building. Trials of those facing more serious charges – such as assaulting police officers or planning the attack that day – remain pending.
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Unlike many of those charged, Richardson never entered the building. But prosecutors said Friday that his attack on a Washington, D.C. police officer outside set his case apart and earned him a lengthy prison sentence.
Body camera footage of multiple officers showed Richardson – sporting a “Brigantine Beach” windbreaker and a red baseball cap – in front of a crowd battling police barricades in Capitol Square West.
He approached a policeman in riot gear and shouted, “That’s it! and bludgeoned him three times with the metal pole. It only stopped swinging after the pole snapped in half.
Investigators later found a diary in Richardson’s home with detailed handwritten notes of his activities during the uprising.
“The gates have been breached,” he wrote in an entry marked 1 p.m. And between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. – when his assault on the officer took place – he noted that he was “climbing the steps”.
He said he was pepper sprayed in a driveway at 2 p.m. – and noted ‘no trash cans’ and ‘no Port-A-Potties’.
Although Richardson pleaded guilty to charges of assaulting an officer earlier this year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily W. Allen said he continued to lie about his conduct and downplay his actions.
He first told FBI agents in October that he acted in self-defense after the officer hit him with a baton. He later said he lost his temper after officers falsely accused him of being part of a group that used a metal billboard to cross police lines.
And he insisted he hadn’t bludgeoned the officer with a Trump flag but rather one bearing the pro-police slogan ‘Back the Blue’.
All of these stories, Allen noted, were later proven false by video evidence.
“Mr. Richardson was front and center,” she said. “There’s no way you’re watching this video to see him as he shields himself.”
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Additionally, she added, while Richardson had no criminal record, his behavior on January 6, 2021 was part of a disturbing escalation of violence in his behavior in recent years.
In 2018, Philadelphia police were called to an incident in which Richardson was accused of pulling a gun on two people at a gas station as he confronted them about how they had parked their car near shoes. He was not arrested at the time, but his carry license was revoked.
Two years later, officers still found him carrying a gun during a traffic stop in Montgomery County. He was out on bail for this crime when he participated in the January 6 attack.
Even after Richardson was charged with beating an officer during the riot, he was arrested again at Upper Merion. This time, police say, he ‘attacked’ a passing motorcyclist during an argument over the noise he was making outside Richardson’s home.
Richardson’s attorney, Thomas C. Egan III, who is also representing him in these cases, argued that the attack on the motorcyclist was not what prosecutors claimed it was and that in this situation, too, his client was acting in self-defense. .
He portrayed Richardson as a valued member of his community who often volunteers as a poll watcher and election judge and who had built a successful pest control business in Montgomery County.
“He didn’t go there with the intention of hurting anyone,” Egan said. “He was an elderly gentleman who went there as a supporter of President Trump and believed rightly or wrongly that the election had been taken away from him.”
Kollar-Kotelly didn’t believe it. She again said that Richardson’s previous work in elections should have given her a better understanding than most people of how democracy works.
“He went from helping his fellow citizens exercise one of the fundamental rights of democracy to attacking the ideals of democracy through his criminal actions on January 6,” she said.
In addition to his prison sentence, Richardson was sentenced to three years under court supervision after his release and to pay $2,000 in restitution.