US Capitol rioter who attacked photographer sentenced to five years

<span>Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

A man who attacked an Associated Press photographer and threw a flagpole and smoke grenade at police officers guarding the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, was sentenced in a federal court on Friday to five years in prison.

Rodney Milstreed, 56, of Finksburg, Maryland, “prepared himself for battle” on January 6 by injecting steroids and arming himself with a four-foot wooden club disguised as a flagpole, prosecutors said.

“He began taking steroids in the weeks leading up to January 6, so that he would be ‘jacked’ and ready because, he said, someone needed to ‘hang for treason’ and the battle might come down to hand-to-hand combat,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

A prosecutor showed US district judge James Boasberg videos of Milstreed’s attacks outside the Capitol, as supporters of Donald Trump marched on and later invaded the Capitol in the vain hopes of preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 election.

“I know what I did that day was very wrong,” he said.

Capitol police officer Devan Gowdy suffered a concussion when Milstreed hurled his wooded club at a line of officers.

“January 6 is a day that will be burned into my brain and my nightmares for the rest of my life,” Gowdy told the judge. “The effects of this domestic terrorist attack will never leave me.”

Gowdy told Milstreed that he “will always be looked at as a domestic terrorist and traitor” for his actions on January 6. The officer has since left the police.

Milstreed was arrested in May 2022 in Colorado and pleaded guilty in April to assault charges and possessing an unregistered firearm.

A cache of weapons and ammunition was found at Milstreed’s Maryland home and in his Colorado hotel room investigators found 94 vials of probably illegal steroids.

Milstreed spewed violent, threatening rhetoric on social media in the weeks before the insurrection.

He attended Trump’s rally near the White House earlier on January 6 and then, with the president urging his supporters to overturn the election result, followed the crowd of supporters of the Republican to the Capitol.

Milstreed was “front and center” as rioters and police clashed outside the Capitol, prosecutors said. He tossed his wooden club at a police line and a video captured him retrieving a smoke grenade from the crowd and throwing it back at police across a barricade.

Milstreed then joined other rioters in attacking an AP photographer, grabbing the photographer’s backpack and yanking him down some steps.

Milstreed used Facebook to update his friends on the riot in real time.

“Man I’ve never seen anything like this. I feel so alive,” he wrote, sharing photos of blood on a floor outside the Capitol, also writing it “felt good” to punch the photographer.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with January 6-related federal crimes.