WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A District of Columbia man who pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers outside the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Tuesday to 63 months behind bars, tying the record for the longest prison term to date for anyone convicted in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.
Mark Ponder, 56, also was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution and faces three years of supervised release following his federal prison term of five years and three months, the U.S. Department of Justice said in announcing the sentencing.
Ponder assaulted three officers in a series of confrontations on the Capitol grounds after a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump overwhelmed police lines on the West Plaza of the building on the afternoon of Jan. 6, according to court documents in the case.
The ensuing riot led to several deaths, left more than 140 police officers injured and delayed a joint session of Congress in certifying the November 2020 presidential election victory of Democrat Joe Biden over Trump, the Republican incumbent who falsely claimed he lost due to widespread fraud and summoned supporters to Washington to “stop the steal.”
Arrested on March 17, 2021, Ponder pleaded guilty in April of this year to charges of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon.
According to the DOJ statement, he swung a pole at a U.S. Capitol Police officer, striking the officer’s riot shield and breaking the pole in two, before arming himself with a thicker pole that he wielded against other officers, striking one of them in the shoulder.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, at Tuesday’s hearing, said Ponder “was leading the charge” as “part of a group who, when they couldn’t get what they wanted, decided they were going to take it, and they were going to take it with violence,” according to the Washington Post.
The 63-month-long sentence levied against Ponder matches the prison term imposed in December against a Florida man, Robert Scott Palmer, convicted for throwing a wooden plank and a fire extinguisher at police during the Jan. 6 riot.
Palmer’s sentence was then the longest yet stemming from the attack on the Capitol.
More than 850 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, the most violent assault on the halls of Congress since the British invasion of Washington during the War of 1812. More than 325 guilty pleas have been entered to date in connection with the Jan. 6 upheaval.
(Reporting by Scott Malone in Washington; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Stephen Coates)
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