WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pennsylvania man was sentenced on Friday to nearly three years in prison for assaulting an Associated Press photographer and attacking police officers with a stun gun during the U.S. Capitol riot.
Alan Byerly apologized to his victims before U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss sentenced him to two years and 10 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Byerly will get credit for the more than 15 months he already has served behind bars since his arrest, according to his lawyers.
“I didn’t go to D.C. to harm anyone,” Byerly told the judge.
Byerly, 55, pleaded guilty in July to assaulting AP photographer John Minchillo and then activating a stun gun as he charged at police officers who were trying to hold off the mob that formed outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Byerly said he was an “antagonistic jerk” when he confronted the officers. He also said he assaulted Minchillo after hearing a voice say, “That’s antifa. Get him out of here.”
Minchillo was wearing a lanyard with AP lettering when Byerly and other rioters attacked him on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, according to a court filing accompanying Byerly’s guilty plea. Byerly grabbed Minchillo, pushed him backward and dragged him toward a crowd, the filing says. Another AP photographer captured the assault on video.
“I should have never gotten involved, and I’m deeply sorry for my actions,” Byerly said.
Prosecutors sought a sentence of at least three years and 10 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. Defense lawyers requested a sentence below an estimated guidelines range of 37 to 46 months in prison.
Moss said he believed Byerly is genuinely remorseful for his role in the mob’s “assault on democracy.” The judge said it was clear that Byerly couldn’t have injured anybody with the inexpensive stun gun that he brought to the Capitol, but the officers couldn’t have known that given the sound that it made.
“They were clearly frightened by it,” Moss said. “It undoubtedly added to the fear the officers felt that day.”
Minchillo “must have been extremely frightened, as well,” the judge added.
None of Byerly’s victims attended his sentencing hearing.
Byerly bought the stun gun before traveling from his home in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., for the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. Leaving the rally before then-President Donald Trump finished speaking, Byerly went to the west side of the Capitol and joined other rioters in using a metal Trump billboard as a battering ram against police, prosecutors said.
Later, Byerly approached police officers behind bike racks and deployed his stun gun. After officers grabbed the stun gun from Byerly’s hands, he charged at them, struck and pushed them and grabbed an officer’s baton, prosecutors said. One of the officers fell and landed on his hands while trying to restrain Byerly.
Defense attorneys said the model of stun gun that Byerly purchased for $24.99 was considered to be “junk” by engineering experts.
“Furthermore, shortly after purchasing the device, Mr. Byerly had accidentally activated it on himself and thus knew that it could not cause injury or even pain,” the defense lawyers wrote in a court filing.
Other rioters helped him elude capture that day, but Byerly was arrested in July 2021. He told FBI agents that he did just “one stupid thing down there and that’s all it was,” according to prosecutors.
“This was a reference to how he handled the reporter and nothing more,” they wrote in a court filing.
Byerly, a carpenter by trade and father of four children, has remained in custody since his arrest more than 15 months ago.
Approximately 900 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on Jan. 6. More than 420 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor offenses. Nearly 300 have been sentenced, with roughly half of them getting terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years, according to an AP review of court records.
More than 100 police officers were injured during the Jan. 6 riot. Over 270 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees at the Capitol, according to the Justice Department. Byerly is one of several defendants charged with assaulting members of the news media or destroying their equipment at the Capitol.
For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege
Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press