Home News Septic Installer Is Sentenced to 7 Years for Urging Jan. 6 Mob With Megaphone

Septic Installer Is Sentenced to 7 Years for Urging Jan. 6 Mob With Megaphone

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Septic Installer Is Sentenced to 7 Years for Urging Jan. 6 Mob With Megaphone

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A man in Washington State has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, where prosecutors said he used a megaphone to urge other rioters to barge through a police line.

The man, Taylor James Johnatakis, 40, of Kingston, Wash., was sentenced Wednesday after being convicted last fall of three felony charges — obstruction of an official proceeding, interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder and assaulting law enforcement — and four misdemeanor charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia.

Before Jan. 6, Mr. Johnatakis posted numerous messages on social media expressing his desire to interfere with the election certification process at the Capitol. “That’s why I am going to D.C., to CHANGE the course of HISTORY #stopthesteal,” he wrote in one post, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Wearing a red MAGA hat and backpack carrying a megaphone, Mr. Johnatakis led a group of people up to a police line on the Capitol’s Southwest stairs on Jan. 6, urging rioters to “push them out of here,” according to a court filing.

Officer body cam footage showed Mr. Johnatakis lifting a metal barricade and pushing it into officers as he led a countdown over his megaphone, “One, two, three, go!”

Other footage showed Mr. Johnatakis grabbing an officer’s arm.

Marc D’Avignon, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department, testified at Mr. Johnatakis’s trial that the confrontation on the Southwest stairs had been “frightening.”

“I thought they were going to come through,” Mr. D’Avignon said. “I thought we were going to be trampled. I thought we were going to be hurt. I thought we were going to die.”

After the police had secured a perimeter around the Capitol in the evening on Jan. 6, Mr. Johnatakis recorded videos of himself walking away and posted them on social media.

“I was on the front line,” he said in one, according to court records. “I was on the gate. I organized a push up to the Capitol because I felt like that is exactly what we needed.”

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Mr. Johnatakis, a self-employed septic systems installer, to nine years in prison — longer than federal sentencing guidelines — arguing that he played an outsized role in the riot.

“Johnatakis was not just any rioter,” prosecutors said. “He led, organized and encouraged the assault of officers at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”

Ahead of the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth received about 20 letters from friends and family of Mr. Johnatakis, attesting to his good character, according to notes that accompanied the sentence.

Like several other Jan. 6 defendants, Mr. Johnatakis represented himself at trial. Though he expressed contrition in the courtroom, Judge Lamberth said, he had taken a different tone in speeches, letters and podcast interviews from the District of Columbia Jail, where he has been held since he was convicted in a jury trial last November.

“He changes his story depending on the audience,” Judge Lamberth said, adding that “there can be no room in our country for this sort of political violence.”

Marie Johnatakis, Mr. Johnatakis’s wife, said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., on Thursday that the court case had forced “quite a transition” for the couple and their five children.

“He’s actually a really good person,” Ms. Johnatakis, who has been journaling about the experience on a personal website, said of her husband.

“As a nation we’ve been super divided, and we see people as good and bad,” she said, adding that “it’s just so important that we see people as humans.”

Mr. Johnatakis is one of more than 1,350 people who have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, in which angry demonstrators, urged on by President Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen, attempted to halt the certification of the results. Federal prosecutors have described the ongoing criminal investigation into the events of that day as the largest in the history of the Justice Department.

Mr. Trump was indicted last August on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

A March trial date was canceled after an appeal from Mr. Trump arguing that he is immune from prosecution for official acts taken in the White House. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case later this month.

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