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News / Nation & World

Capitol rioter who assaulted at least 6 police officers is sentenced to 5 years in prison

By Associated Press
Published: January 17, 2024, 5:41pm

A Florida man described by prosecutors as one of the most violent rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison, court records show.

Kenneth Bonawitz, a member of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group’s Miami chapter, assaulted at least six police officers as he stormed the Capitol with a mob of Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. He grabbed one of the officers in a chokehold and injured another so severely that the officer had to retire, according to federal prosecutors.

Bonawitz, 58, of Pompano Beach, Florida, carried an eight-inch knife in a sheath on his hip. Police seized the knife from him in between his barrage of attacks on officers.

“His violent, and repeated, assaults on multiple officers are among the worst attacks that occurred that day,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean McCauley wrote in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Jia Cobb sentenced Bonawitz to a five-year term of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release, according to court records.

The Justice Department recommended a prison sentence of five years and 11 months for Bonawitz, who was arrested last January. He pleaded guilty in August to three felonies — one count of civil disorder and two counts of assaulting police.

Bonawitz took an overnight bus to Washington, D.C., chartered for Trump supporters to attend his “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House on Jan. 6.

Bonawitz was one of the first rioters to enter the Upper West Plaza once the crowd overran a police line on the north side. He jumped off a stage built for President Joe Biden’s inauguration and tackled two Capitol police officers. One of them, Sgt. Federico Ruiz, suffered serious injuries to his neck, shoulder, knees and back.

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“I thought there was a strong chance I could die right there,” Ruiz wrote in a letter addressed to the judge.

Ruiz, who retired last month, said the injuries inflicted by Bonawitz prematurely ended his law-enforcement career.

“Bonawitz has given me a life sentence of physical pain and discomfort, bodily injury and emotional insecurity as a direct result of his assault on me,” he wrote.

After police confiscated his knife and released him, Bonawitz assaulted four more officers in the span of seven seconds. He placed one of the officers in a headlock and lifted her off the ground, choking her.

“Bonawitz’s attacks did not stop until (police) officers pushed him back into the crowd for a second time and deployed chemical agent to his face,” the prosecutor wrote.

More than 100 police officers were injured during the siege. Over 1,200 defendants have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. About 900 have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials. Over 750 have been sentenced, with nearly 500 receiving a term of imprisonment, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

Dozens of Proud Boys leaders, members and associates have been arrested on Jan. 6 charges. A jury convicted former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and three lieutenants of seditious conspiracy charges for a failed plot to forcibly stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Trump to Biden after the 2020 election.

Bonawitz isn’t accused of coordinating his actions on Jan. 6 with other Proud Boys. But he “fully embraced and embodied their anti-government, extremist ideology when he assaulted six law enforcement officers who stood between a mob and the democratic process,” the prosecutor wrote.

Bonawitz’s lawyers didn’t publicly file a sentencing memo before Wednesday’s hearing. One of his attorneys didn’t immediately respond to emails and a phone call seeking comment.

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