Federal prosecutors have recommended an eight-month prison sentence for a Maryland man who pleaded guilty to shoving a police officer with a lacrosse stick attached to a Confederate battle flag during last year's riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Prosecutors also on Wednesday recommended sentencing David Alan Blair, 27, to three years of supervised release after any prison term and ordering him to pay $2,000 in restitution.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper is scheduled to sentence Blair next Wednesday.
Blair left his home in Clarksburg, Maryland, and started driving to Washington, D.C., after the riot erupted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Shortly before 6 p.m., Blair encountered a line of Metropolitan Police Department officers on the Capitol’s West Lawn and refused to heed their commands to leave the area, prosecutors said.
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A police officer's body camera captured Blair walking in front of the police line and yelling, “Hell naw. Quit backing up. Don’t be scared. We’re Americans.”
Blair was arrested after he pushed his lacrosse stick against an officer’s chest.
The officer responded to the push by striking Blair three times in the head with a baton, drawing blood and giving him a concussion, according to Blair's attorney.
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Blair pleaded guilty in March to a felony charge of interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder, which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
Blair’s attorney, Terrell Roberts III, asked the judge to impose a sentence of probation. Roberts said Blair thought he had the right to be where he was and to “exercise his First Amendment right of free assembly” before one of the advancing officers shoved him.
“The brute force which led to provoking the defendant was not called for,” Roberts wrote.
Blair didn't enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. He told investigators that he went to the Capitol to “fight Antifa,” not to disrupt Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory, according to prosecutors.
Blair also said he had been trading social media messages with somebody who often made anti-Semitic remarks and “blamed Israel for the world’s problems,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman wrote in a court filing.
“Blair further explained that as a result of these discussions he came to believe the United States was ‘falling apart’ and that he had to ‘stand up’ to communism,” Liebman added.
On Jan. 6, Blair was wearing a skull-themed neck gaiter and a backpack containing a knife with a serrated blade and a roll of duct tape. He told police that he used the duct tape to attach the Confederate battle flag to his lacrosse stick.
Liebman said Blair likely knew that displaying the flag, widely viewed as a symbol of racist hate, would "antagonize any ideological opponent he might encounter."
Blair is one of several Capitol riot defendants who carried a Confederate battle flag that day. The others include Kevin Seefried, a Delaware man who was convicted in June of storming the Capitol with his adult son. Another flag-toting rioter, Matthew Ryan Miller, was sentenced in May to 33 months in prison for assaulting police officers and obstructing an official proceeding.
More than 830 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Over 300 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges, and over 200 have been sentenced.