Capitol rioter who attacked at least six police officers has been sentenced to five years in prison

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

Capitol rioter who attacked at least six police officers has been sentenced to five years in prison


January 18, 2024

A Florida man described by prosecutors as one of the most violent rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison, court records show.

Kenneth Bonawitz, a member of the Miami chapter of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group, attacked at least six police officers as he stormed the Capitol with a crowd of pro-Trump supporters. He grabbed one of the officers in a chokehold and injured another so seriously that the officer had to retire, federal prosecutors said.

Bonawitz, 58, of Pompano Beach, Florida, carried an 8-inch knife in a sheath on his hip. Police confiscated the knife from him between his attacks on officers.

His violent and repeated attacks on multiple officers were among the worst that occurred that day, Assistant U.S. Atty. Sean McCauley wrote in a lawsuit.

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

The Justice Department has recommended a prison sentence of five years and 11 months for Bonawitz, who was arrested in January 2023. He pleaded guilty in August to three offences: one charge of civil disorder and two charges of assaulting police.

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Bonawitz took an overnight bus to Washington chartered for Trump supporters to attend the former president’s Stop the Steal rally at the White House on January 6, 2021.

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

“I thought there was a good chance I would die there,” Ruiz wrote in a letter to the judge.

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

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“Bonawitz has imposed a life sentence on me for physical pain and discomfort, bodily harm, and emotional insecurity as a direct result of his attack on me,” he wrote.

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

Bonawitz’s attacks only stopped when officers pushed him back into the crowd a second time and threw a chemical agent in his face, the prosecutor wrote.

More than a hundred police officers were injured during the siege. More than 1,200 defendants have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot, about 900 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials. More than 750 people have been convicted, with nearly 500 receiving prison sentences, according to data compiled by the Associated Press.

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

Bonawitz is not accused of coordinating his actions on January 6 with other Proud Boys. But he “fully embraced and embodied their anti-government, extremist ideology when he attacked six law enforcement officers who stood between a crowd and the democratic process,” the prosecutor wrote.

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


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