WASHINGTON (AP) – A retired Air Force officer who stormed the U.S. Capitol dressed in combat gear and carried handcuffs with handcuffs into the Senate rostrum was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.
Larry Brock, 55, of Grapevine, Texas, joined other rioters on the Senate floor only minutes after then-Vice President Mike Pence, the senators and their staff evacuated the chamber to escape the attacking mob the building on January 6, 2021.
U.S. District Judge John Bates also sentenced Brock to two years probation following his prison sentence and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service. Brock, who refused to speak in court before the judge imposed his sentence, remains free until he has to report to prison on a date to be determined.
Prosecutors had recommended a five-year prison sentence followed by three years of probation.
Bates convicted Brock in November after a non-jury trial. Brock has waived his right to a jury trial.
The judge said Brock delivered “very concerning” and violent rhetoric ahead of the Jan. 6 riot. Judge read aloud several of Brock’s social media posts calling it “pretty amazing” that a high-ranking former military officer would utter those words.
“This is chilling stuff, and it reflects the purpose of stopping election certification,” Bates said.
Brock believed unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from incumbent Republican Donald Trump, prosecutors said.
“When 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 aid and abet the coup plotters,” Brock wrote in a Nov. 9, 2020 article , Facebook posts.
In a Facebook message to another user on Christmas Eve, Brock outlined what he called a “plan of action if Congress fails to act” on Jan. 6. One of the “major tasks” in his plan was to “seize all Democratic politicians and key Biden staff and selected Republicans.
“Initiate interrogations using the measures we used on al-Qaida to obtain evidence of the coup,” he wrote.
Brock flew combat missions in Afghanistan before retiring from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
His “plan of action” also called for “a general pardon for all crimes up to and including murder of those who restored the Constitution and suppressed the democratic insurrection.”
“Do not kill LEO unless necessary,” he wrote, apparently referring to law enforcement.
Brock did not commit any violence on Jan. 6, but prosecutors said his behavior was “disturbingly premeditated.”
“Had the Senate Gallery not been emptied minutes earlier, Brock might have come face to face with the politicians he had fantasized about seizing and interrogating,” they wrote in a court filing.
Bates convicted Brock on all six counts, including obstruction of official proceedings, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, The obstruction charge is a felony; the other five counts are misdemeanors.
Defense attorney Charles Burnham said it was “inconceivable that (Brock) should have been motivated by anything other than genuine concern for democracy.”
“If Mr. Brock was genuinely motivated by high ideals, it significantly reduces his culpability even if the court were to privately disagree with his view,” Burnham wrote in a court filing.
Brock attended the “Stop the Steal” rally where Trump addressed a crowd of supporters on Jan. 6. He was wearing a helmet and tactical vest when he joined the mob that attacked the Capitol. He entered the building through the Senate doors about 12 minutes after other rioters initially breached them.
On the floor near the stairs to the East Rotunda, Brock picked up a discarded pair of handcuffs. He held the “flexible handcuffs” in his right hand in the Senate rostrum. On the Senate floor, he perused the papers on the senators’ desks.
“This was consistent with the overall mission Brock stated on Jan. 6, which was intelligence gathering to stop certification and the transfer of power,” the prosecutors wrote.
Brock graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1989. He was on active duty through 1998 and served in the reserves through 2014.
In a letter to the judge, a retired Air Force major general praised Brock’s military service. The major general, whose name has been withheld from public court records, said Brock risked his life to protect US forces from a Taliban attack, flying below mountain tops in a valley “saturated with enemy forces.”
“The result hampered enemy advances on US personnel, saved US lives, and defused an ever-escalating situation for forces at that remote base in Afghanistan,” the major general wrote.
Brock was deployed as a commercial airline pilot on January 6. His attorney said the Federal Aviation Administration revoked Brock’s licenses following his arrest in January 2021.
About 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the January 6 riot. More than 400 of them were convicted, with over half receiving prison sentences ranging from seven days to 10 years.
At least 70 of the convicted rioters have served in the military, according to a review of court documents by the Associated Press.
Also on Friday, a rioter who enlisted in the Air Force after assaulting police at the Capitol was sentenced to three years and four months in prison by District Judge Reggie Walton. Aiden Bilyard was 18 when he sprayed a chemical irritant at a line of police officers before using a baseball bat to break a window at the Capitol.
Bilyard was undergoing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas when the FBI questioned him several months after the riot. He later retired from the Air Force and returned home to Cary, North Carolina. Bilyard, now 20, pleaded guilty to an assault charge last year.