A Tennessee man who dragged a police officer into a crowd of rioters, initiating one of the most outrageous acts of violence during the US Capitol attack, was sentenced Thursday to more than seven years in prison.
Albuquerque Cosper Head declined to speak in court before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him to seven years and six months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. The judge said Head was responsible for “some of the darkest acts committed on one of our nation’s darkest days.”
Head’s prison sentence is six months short of the statutory maximum in his case. It is also the second-longest so far among hundreds of cases stemming from the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building as Congress prepared to confirm President Joe Biden’s election victory.
“Unfortunately, the dark shadow of tyranny has not disappeared,” Jackson said. “There are people who are still spreading the lie that the election was stolen. They do it today. And the people who incite that anger for their own selfish purposes, they need to think about the destruction they’ve caused, the lives they’ve destroyed.”
Head was involved in some of the most barbaric violence during the Capitol riots, repeatedly assaulting police officers guarding a tunnel on Lower West Terrace, according to prosecutors.
Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone was on the front lines of the battle for control of the tunnel entrance when Head grabbed him. The head yelled “I’ve got one!” as he threw his arms around Fanone’s neck and pulled him into the crowd outside the tunnel, prosecutors said.
“He was your prey. He was your trophy,” Jackson Head, 43, said.
Fanone held his head while other rioters beat and shocked the officer with a stun gun to the base of his skull. Fanone lost consciousness during the assault, which his body camera captured on video.
“Although Head was separated from Officer Fanone in the moments that followed, Head would have been able to hear the sound of the Taser being reactivated, Officer Fanone’s screams of pain, and the shouts of another rioter to ‘Kill him with his own gun !’” prosecutors wrote in a lawsuit.
During Thursday’s sentencing, Fanone said the attack gave him a heart attack and traumatic brain injury and ultimately cost him his career. He has written a book about his January 6 experience and testified at a hearing held by the House committee investigating the riot.
“I would trade all this attention to go back to the police, but I can’t do it,” he said. “And the catalyst for my loss of career and the suffering I’ve endured for the last 18 months is Albuquerque Head.”
Other rioters have been accused of assaulting Fanone, including Kyle Young, an Iowa man who grabbed Fanone by the wrist while others shouted, “Kill him!” and “Get his gun!” Jackson last month sentenced Young to seven years and two months in prison.
Daniel “DJ” Rodriguez, a California man charged with using the stun gun on Fanone, is scheduled to go on trial in February 2023. Thomas Sibick, a New York riot suspect, is charged with stealing the officer’s badge and police radio during the melee .
Head, a construction worker from Kingsport, Tennessee, was arrested in April 2021 and pleaded guilty to an assault charge in May 2022. He has a criminal record that includes approximately 45 prior arrests.
Prosecutors recommended an eight-year prison sentence, the statutory maximum he faced.
Fanone also asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. He recalled how Head initially told him, “I’m going to try to help you out here. You hear me?” before shouting that he “got one”.
“I would ask you to show Mr. Head the same mercy that he showed me on January 6th, which, if there was any question in this courtroom, there is none,” Fanone said.
Head’s lawyer, Nicholas Wallace, requested a five-year sentence.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Head made elaborate advance plans or that he came to DC prepared for a fight. His series of poor decisions, as outlined above, while serious, are far from the worst behavior that day,” Wallace wrote.
Head told FBI agents he was driving to Washington, DC, to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally where then-President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of supporters. When he joined the mob at the tunnel, Head used a riot shield as a weapon and used another shield to push toward Fanone and other officers, according to prosecutors.
“When Officer Fanone used his hand to latch onto the door frame in the middle of the struggle, Head struck the officer’s hand with his own hand, causing the officer to lose his grip on the door frame,” prosecutors wrote.
After he pulled Fanone into the crowd, Head was separated from the officer. As others in the crowd surrounded Fanone to protect him from his assailants, Head repeatedly reached toward the officer and tried to grab him again, prosecutors said. Fanone’s body camera showed him collapsing after his bodyguards escorted him back to the police line.
Fanone’s partner tried to revive him, saying, “Come on, Mike. Come on, buddy. We’re going duck hunting soon.”
Fanone regained consciousness after nearly two and a half minutes and asked, “Do we take that door back?”
“The courage and sacrifice that Officer Fanone showed that day is incredible, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for what he has lost,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Cara Gardner told the judge.
About 900 people have been charged with federal crimes for their behavior on January 6. More than 430 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. More than 300 have been convicted, with about half 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 at the Capitol. Around 20 defendants have been sentenced for assaulting the police on 6 January, the Ministry of Justice says.
For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege