A Maryland man affiliated with the far-right extremist group Proud Boys was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Monday for storming the US Capitol, where authorities say he met with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer while his armed security service ran the New York Democrat. to safety.
“One look at Pruitt, and Senator Schumer’s security chief immediately saw the threat and shoved the 70-year-old senator down a hallway, having to change his escape route on the spur of the moment,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Loeb in a court filing ahead of Monday’s hearing.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly sentenced Pruitt to four years and seven months in prison followed by three years of probation, according to Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Prosecutors had recommended a five-year prison sentence for Pruitt, a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, who worked as a bartender and personal trainer. They described him as an aspiring member of the Proud Boys whose intimidating figure made him an “ideal recruit” for the group on January 6.
Schumer’s security chief told the FBI that their meeting with Pruitt was a heartbreaking and unforgettable moment. Pruitt was advancing and just seconds from reaching Schumer when the security detail turned and ran with the senator away from an elevator and back down a ramp, detail members said.
“At the end of the ramp, the officers closed and locked the doors. The security detail and (Schumer) followed a secondary escape route. Once the doors closed, Pruitt turned and retraced his steps,” Loeb wrote.
Pruitt and other prospects and recruits from the local Proud Boys chapter often used encrypted communications to discuss the Capitol storming, the Civil War and clashes with police, prosecutors say. They said Pruitt wanted to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6.
“He personally forced a 70-year-old senator to run and find another way to safety. Of all the rioters who stormed the Capitol, this is a notable distinction,” Loeb wrote.
Defense attorney Robert Jenkins Jr. said there was no “direct evidence” that Pruitt coordinated with members of the Proud Boys to attack the Capitol. Pruitt did not face a conspiracy charge.
“He admits that as events unfolded, Mr. Pruitt was overwhelmed by his emotions and his genuine belief that the election results were tainted by fraud,” Jenkins wrote. He asked for a three-year prison sentence for Pruitt.
Jenkins’ 10-page sentencing memo does not address Pruitt’s meeting with Schumer, now the Senate Majority Leader.
Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes founded the Proud Boys in 2016. Members of the group call it a politically incorrect men’s club for “western chauvinists”. Prior to the Capitol Riot, they were best known for their street brawls with anti-fascist activists at rallies and demonstrations.
Dozens of Proud Boys leaders, members and associates have been charged with crimes related to the Capitol Riots. Some, including former Proud Boys national president Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, have been charged with seditious conspiracy in what authorities say is a plot to forcibly oppose the legal transfer of presidential power.
Prosecutors called Pruitt an “individual symbol of the angry mob at the Capitol that day.” Many police officers guarding the Capitol on Jan. 6 remembered him as an instigator, prosecutors say.
“Wearing a tactical glove with knuckle pads and a cut-out t-shirt with the logo of the ‘Punisher’ – an anti-hero known for meting out violent vigilante justice – Pruitt made a calculated choice to using his muscular appearance to communicate to police that they were facing a dangerous person,” Loeb wrote.
Pruitt was on probation and wore an ankle monitor on the day of the riot. He was first arrested on the night of January 6 for violating a curfew imposed by the mayor of Washington, D.C. He has been imprisoned since a judge ordered his pretrial detention in January 2022.
Pruitt pleaded guilty in June to a felony charge of obstructing due process, the joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, the Republican incumbent.
More than 860 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on January 6. About 400 of them pleaded guilty or were sentenced after a trial. More than 240 Capitol Riot defendants have been convicted, about half of whom received prison terms ranging from seven days to more than seven years.