DOJ secures longest sentence yet for convicted Jan. 6 defendant

ByBeatrice Peterson ABCNews logo
Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Department of Justice secured its most severe sentence for a convicted Jan. 6 defendant yet -- a marked victory for the government as it pursues those accused of attempting an insurrection.

Peter Schwartz, whom prosecutors termed "one of the most violent and aggressive participants" in the Jan. 6 riot, was sentenced to 14 years behind bars and 36 months of probation in a decision announced by Judge Amit Mehta on Friday. Earlier, federal prosecutors argued he should be sentenced to 24.5 years (or 294 months) in prison, three years of supervised release, $2,000 restitution and a fine of $71,541.

"This sentence is at the midpoint of Schwartz's Sentencing Guidelines range and takes account of his repeated violence against police on January 6th, his substantial violent criminal history, his utter lack of remorse, and his efforts to profit from his crime," the government's sentencing memorandum said.

The longest sentence stemming from the attack thus far was 10 years given to former New York police officer Thomas Webster, who was found guilty of attacking officers during the riot.

Schwartz, prosecutors said, was the first person to throw a chair at officers, creating an opening within the police line at the Capitol. His actions -- which included stealing chemical munitions such as pepper spray -- led to hundreds of rioters overwhelming officers at a key police line forcing them to retreat, prosecutors alleged.

Schwartz's attorneys requested leniency, seeking a sentence of four and a half years behind bars.

"Although his conduct is indeed serious, it is significant to note that Mr. Schwartz's actions were not motivated by any desire for personal financial gain or any other type of benefit," Schwartz's attorneys wrote. "Rather, his actions were motivated by a misunderstanding as to the facts surrounding the 2020 election."

On Jan. 6, 2021, Schwartz was on probation for at least one other case that involved both assaultive conduct and illegal firearms possession. He has maintained his innocence in several interviews.

His threats against officers date back to 1991, and he has been convicted on 38 charges. The cases range from a 2019 conviction for terroristic threats "for threatening police officers who placed him under arrest for domestic assault" to a 2020 conviction for domestic violence after he bit his wife on the forehead and punched her multiple times, according to court documents. He previously had four separate convictions of assault or threatening police officers.

Mehta also faces the task later this month of sentencing Oath Keepers members who were convicted late last year of seditious conspiracy, including the group's founder, Stewart Rhodes.

Approximately 339 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, including approximately 107 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer as of April 6, according to DOJ.

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