WASHINGTON (AP) — A retired Air Force officer who stormed the U.S. Capitol dressed in combat gear and wearing handcuffs with zippers into the Senate gallery was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.
Larry Brock joined other rioters in the Senate just minutes after then-Vice President Mike Pence, senators and their staff evacuated the chamber to escape the mob that attacked the building on January 6, 2021.
U.S. District Judge John Bates also sentenced Brock to two years of supervised release after his prison term and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service. Brock, who declined to speak in court before the judge sentenced him, remains free until he reports to jail on a date to be determined.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Bates convicted Brock in November after a non-jury trial. The judge said Brock had expressed “very disturbing” and violent rhetoric before the January 6 riot. The judge read out several of Brock’s social media posts saying it was “really quite astonishing” that a former senior military officer would make those words.
“It’s a scary thing and it reflects the purpose of stopping the validation of the election,” Bates said.
Brock believed baseless conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Republican Donald Trump, prosecutors said.
“Once we get to the bottom of this conspiracy, we must execute the traitors who are trying to steal the election, and that includes the media and social media leaders who are aiding and abetting the coup plotters,” Brock wrote on Nov. 9. 2020, Facebook post.
In a Facebook message to another user on Christmas Eve, Brock laid out what he called “a plan of action if Congress doesn’t act” on January 6. One of the “main tasks” in his plan was to “capture all Democratic politicians and Biden key staff and select Republicans.”
“Begin interrogations using the measures we used against Al-Qaeda to gather evidence of the coup,” he wrote.
Brock, a Texas native who lived in the Dallas area, flew combat missions in Afghanistan before retiring from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
His “action plan” also called for a “general amnesty for all crimes, including the killing of those who restored the Constitution and suppressed the democratic rebellion.”
“Don’t kill a LEO unless necessary,” he wrote, apparently referring to law enforcement officers.
Brock did not commit any violence on Jan. 6, but prosecutors said his behavior was “disturbing in advance.”
“Had the Senate gallery not been emptied minutes earlier, Brock might have come face-to-face with the politicians he fantasized about arresting and questioning,” they wrote in the court filing.
Bates convicted Brock on all six counts of the indictment, including obstructing the official proceedings of a joint session of Congress on January 6 to confirm the election victory of President Joe Biden. A charge of obstruction is a felony; the other five counts are misdemeanors.
Defense attorney Charles Burnham said it was “inconceivable that (Brock) was motivated by anything other than a genuine concern for democracy.”
“If Mr. Brock was genuinely motivated by high ideals, that significantly reduces his culpability even if the Court privately disagrees with his position,” Burnham wrote in a court filing.
Brock attended the “Stop the Steal” rally where Trump addressed a crowd of supporters on January 6. He was wearing a helmet and tactical vest when he joined the mob that attacked the Capitol. He entered the building through the doors of the Senate wing about 12 minutes after other rioters initially broke through.
On the floor near the stairs in the East Rotunda, Brock picked up a discarded pair of zippered handcuffs. In his right hand he held flex-cuffs in the Senate gallery. In the senatorial floor, he examined the paperwork on the senators’ desks.
“This was consistent with Brock’s overall mission stated on Jan. 6, which was to gather intelligence to stop the certification and transfer of authority,” prosecutors wrote.
Brock graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1989. He was on active duty until 1998 and served in the reserve until 2014.
In a letter to the judge, the retired Air Force major general praised Brock’s military service. The major general, whose name was redacted from public court filings, said Brock risked his life to protect American forces from a Taliban attack, flying below mountain peaks into a valley “saturated with enemy forces.”
“The result thwarted an enemy advance on US personnel, saved US lives and defused an escalating situation for forces at that remote base in Afghanistan,” wrote the major general.
Brock was employed as a commercial airline pilot on January 6. His attorney said the Federal Aviation Administration revoked Brock’s licenses after his arrest in January 2021.
About 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6 riots. More than 400 of them were convicted, and more than half received prison sentences ranging from seven days to 10 years.