WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pennsylvania man was sentenced 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 riots.
Alan Byerly apologized to his victims before US 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 has already spent behind bars since his arrest, according to his attorneys.
“I didn’t go to DC to hurt anybody,” Byerly told the judge.
Byerly, 55, pleaded guilty in July to assaulting AP photographer John Minchillo and then activating a stun gun as he attacked police officers trying to disperse 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, “It’s antifa. Get him out of here.”
Minchillo was wearing a lanyard with the letters AP on it when Byerly and other rioters attacked him on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, according to a lawsuit that accompanied Byerly’s guilty plea. Byerly grabbed Minchillo, pushed him backwards and pulled him toward a crowd, the filing states. Another AP photographer caught the assault on video.
“I should never have been involved and I am deeply sorry for my actions,” Byerly said.
Prosecutors wanted a sentence of at least three years and 10 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Defense attorneys requested a sentence below an estimated guideline of 37 to 46 months in prison.
Moss said he believed Byerly sincerely regrets his role in the mob’s “assault on democracy.” The judge said it was clear Byerly could not have hurt anyone with the cheap stun gun he brought to the Capitol, but the officers could not have known that given the sound it made.
“They were obviously afraid of it,” Moss said. “It undoubtedly added to the fear the officers felt that day.”
Minchillo “must also have been extremely scared,” the judge added.
None of Byerly’s victims attended his sentencing.
Byerly purchased the stun gun before traveling from his home in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, to Washington, DC for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. Byerly left the meeting before then-President Donald Trump finished speaking and headed 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 the police officers behind bike racks and deployed his stun gun. After the officers grabbed the stun gun from Byerly’s hands, he attacked them, punching and shoving them and grabbing 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 Byerly bought for $24.99 was deemed “junk” by engineering experts.
“Furthermore, shortly after purchasing the device, Mr. Byerly had accidentally activated it on himself and thus knew it could not cause harm or even pain,” the defense attorneys wrote in a lawsuit.
Other rioters helped him evade capture that day, but Byerly was arrested in July 2021. He told FBI agents he only did “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 lawsuit.
Byerly, a carpenter by trade and father of four, has been in custody since his arrest more than 15 months ago.
About 900 people have been charged with federal crimes for their behavior on January 6. More than 420 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Nearly 300 have been convicted, with about half of them receiving prison terms ranging from seven days to 10 years, according to an AP review of court records.
More than 100 police officers were injured during the unrest on 6 January. More than 270 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or obstructing officers or employees at the Capitol, according to the Justice Department. Byerly is one of several defendants accused of 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