By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Virginia man who told his wife — and a federal jury — that he had “fun” at the U.S. Capitol riot was sentenced on Friday to six years in prison for attacking police as he stormed the building.
Markus Maly’s prison sentence is significantly lower than the punishment that prosecutors sought for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. The Justice Department had recommended a prison sentence of 15 years and eight months for Maly, a flooring installer.
A prosecutor described Maly, 49, as a “lifelong criminal” with 33 prior convictions on his record, including two for battery of a law enforcement officer. But the judge who sentenced Maly noted that most of his crimes date back to his 20s.
Maly told U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta that he regrets traveling to Washington and following the mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters to the Capitol. But he insisted that he merely “occupied space” in the crowd and denied attacking and pepper-spraying police.
“I went to a rally. That’s what I did,” he told the judge.
The judge said jurors had ample evidence to convict Maly of assaulting police.
“It’s not that you were there and ‘occupying space.’ It’s that you did these things and kept doing them that day,” the judge told him.
Prosecutors say Maly is one of many Capitol rioters who have tried to profit from their notoriety, portraying themselves as patriots, martyrs or political prisoners as they solicit donations from supporters. While prosecutors acknowledge that defendants have a right to raise money for legal defenses, they’re increasingly asking judges to impose fines on top of prison terms to claw back donations used for personal expenses.
Maly has raised more than $16,500 through a GiveSendGo donation page, referring to himself as a “January 6 P.O.W.” Prosecutors asked the judge to fine him an amount commensurate with his fundraising haul, noting that he had a public defender and didn’t owe any legal fees.
The judge declined to impose a fine. He said Maly’s fundraising activities may have been “unseemly,” but he questioned whether there was a legal basis for clawing back the money.
Maly testified at his trial that participating in the Capitol riot was “fun” for him. He also described the events of Jan. 6 as “fun” and “awesome” in messages sent to his wife and others.
“Maly admitted to being proud of what he had done at the Capitol and that he had bragged about it,” prosecutor Stephen Rancourt wrote in a court filing. “Despite seeing police officers assaulted, injured, and distressed on January 6, and knowing that it was a bad day for members of Congress and the police officers who had to live through the riot, Maly reiterated that his experience that day was ‘fun.’”
The judge at Maly’s trial previously handed down the longest sentence for a Capitol riot case: 18 years for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who was convicted of orchestrating a violent plot to keep Trump, a Republican, in the White House after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Maly has been jailed since a jury convicted him in December of all eight charges against him, including felony counts of civil disorder and assaulting, resisting or impeding police using a dangerous weapon.
On the morning of Jan. 6, Maly took a bus from his home in Fincastle, Virginia, to Washington to attend Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally. He later joined the mob that attacked police on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, one of the most violent clashes of the day.
Maly sprayed a chemical, possibly pepper spray, at Metropolitan Police Department Officer Christopher Boyle as he and other officers retreated into a tunnel and guarded an entrance. Maly passed a spray cannister from one rioter to another, joined a coordinated “heave ho” push against police and left the tunnel with a stolen riot shield as a “trophy,” Rancourt said.
Maly was charged and tried with co-defendants Peter Schwartz and Jeffrey Scott Brown. Schwartz passed the spray canister to Maly, who passed it to Brown. The jurors who convicted Maly also found Schwartz and Brown guilty of related charges.
The judge sentenced Schwartz last month to 14 years and two months in prison, the longest for a Jan. 6 case before Rhodes, and sentenced Brown in April to four years and six months in prison.
Prosecutors say Maly lied on the witness stand when he testified that he only showed a cannister to Boyle but didn’t spray the officer.
“Maly claimed that the stream of liquid coming out of the canister was actually a piece of fringe on his hat. However, his hat didn’t have a fringe,” Rancourt wrote.
Defense attorney Benjamin Schiffelbein said Maly believed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.
“He fervently believed that he was protesting in the name of liberty and freedom. His motives, however (factually) wrong they may have been, were based in values this country celebrates,” Schiffelbein wrote. “What is more American than fervently defending democracy — even from one’s own government — and perhaps especially then?”
More than 100 police officers were injured during the riot. More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to Jan. 6. Over 500 of them have been sentenced, with more than half getting terms of imprisonment, according to an Associated Press review of court records.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.