4 males convicted of excessive profile assaults on police in the course of the January 6 assault

Four men were convicted Tuesday of assaulting or obstructing police officers in some of the most violent attacks in the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol siege, including one case in which a DC officer was pinned to a door and one another, in which a police officer was dragged down the stairs and beaten with bars and sticks.

Three of the men were convicted in a bench trial before US District Judge Trevor N. McFadden, but other charges against them were dropped, making McFadden the first federal judge in Washington to acquit members of the prosecution of felonies. He noted that while all three fought police, only one clearly intended to obstruct Congress as it met to confirm President Biden’s election victory.

In another case, a fourth man pleaded guilty to assault.

The Capitol’s Lower West Terrace was the scene of some of the worst violence on January 6, when police moved into the mob, unaware that other Capitol entrances had already been breached. Officials testified in court about a slow and steady advance of rioters which they thwarted at great cost for over 2½ hours. They suffered bruises, concussions and broken bones; one was forced into medical retirement.

Patrick E. McCaughey III of Ridgefield, Connecticut used a riot shield to pin DC Cop Daniel Hodges to the tunnel door, McFadden found, and slapped another officer in the hand. Tristan C. Stevens of Pensacola, Fla., attempted to engage the group in coordinated advances and personally pushed Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell with another riot shield. David Mehaffie of Kettering, Ohio, directed the mob members in and out of the tunnel.

All three argued that they were merely caught between violent protesters and the police, an argument McFadden dismissed as “unbelievable”.

Police recall being attacked on January 6 with their own riot shields

The defendants “knew what was happening,” he said, and were part of “shocking violence … no cop could have endured.”

Separately, Jack Wade Whitton of Locust Grove, Georgia, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on Tuesday to assaulting police with a dangerous weapon about an hour later at the same Capitol entrance. He admitted to kicking, punching and throwing objects, telling police “You’re going to die tonight,” and dragging a DC officer, identified as BM, down the stairs to be beaten by fellow rioters will.

Whitton, 32, faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison, or approximately five to eight years, based on federal sentencing guidelines set out in a plea agreement before Sullivan when sentencing March 6.

In the case of the three on trial, McFadden agreed that McCaughey, 25, used a protective shield as a dangerous weapon against Hodges, causing “considerable pain and extensive bruising”. But he found that in other attacks on police, McCaughey and Stevens used the shields in ways that could not cause serious harm.

“I don’t think a shield is inherently a dangerous weapon,” he said. McFadden said he found no support for Gonell’s statement that 26-year-old Stevens also attacked with a police baton.

Gonell and Hodges’ testimony was “more that of victims than typical law enforcement,” McFadden said, possibly colored by their “understandable anger and resentment” toward the rioters. However, he said he believes any inaccurate recollections by the officers were unintentional and that their testimony is largely supported by video evidence.

McCaughey and Mehaffie, on the other hand, “darkened their testimony” to help themselves “more…than the facts would allow,” noted McFadden.

Mehaffie, 63, testified in his own defense that he was pushed into the police lines by the crushing force of the crowd and yelled “Don’t hurt the police!” and had to fight his way back out of the tunnel. On video he can be heard yelling, “Push! To press! Don’t throw!” He said he was trying to control the conflict as the crowd advanced and play a negotiating role, telling police, “If we don’t push, you won’t push.”

There were “no negotiations,” said DC police officer Abdulkadir Abdi beforehand. “Their goal was to get to the Capitol, and we were pretty much in their way.”

Mehaffie struggled to explain why when his aim was to avoid a confrontation he banged on the glass doors, told other rioters they had to scale the walls for the “fight”, helped pass a protective shield forward and in to stay tunnel.

“I don’t know if I had any expectations other than keep moving,” he testified.

McCaughey testified that he backed away when Hodges started screaming, showing he had no desire to do any harm. McFadden said Hodge’s ‘cries of pain’ seemed to have inspired a ‘moment of humanity’ in McCaughey, but that his earlier actions “cannot be undone by his later kindness.”

The judge found that only McCaughey attempted to stop the vote count based on comments he made to friends and police, while Mehaffie and Stevens’ reasons for attempting to get into the Capitol were unclear. Prosecutors argued that their intent could be inferred from their aggression.

“They were absolutely determined to invade the US Capitol that day, no matter what was in front of them,” Assistant Attorney Jocelyn Bond said in the bank’s closing argument. “They back their words, they back their actions.”

Stevens did not testify; His attorney Lauren Cobb concluded by arguing that he used the riot shield to protect himself from police batons. He only “shoved” an officer with it when he was pushed from behind, she said.

“The only plausible explanation” for Steven’s behavior, which included verbally abusing and spitting on officers, was that he wanted to join in the assault, the judge said.

McFadden said there was less evidence of intent to disrupt Congress in this case than in previous Jan. 6 trials he oversaw. But he was also skeptical of defense claims that the three men were only expressing opinions. “They demonstrated outside. They demonstrated all day. Why go to such lengths, why injure multiple officials just to go inside and demonstrate inside? It fails the laugh test,” he said.

McFadden noted that two officers testified that they were more reluctant to use violence in the Capitol on Jan. 6 because of the Black Lives Matter movement and last summer’s racial justice demonstrations. However, blaming both political leaders and rioters, the judge said the trial “shown the chaos and violence that can occur when senior government leaders fail to support law enforcement officials,” and suggested that police be more aggressive should have been and had more support on January 6th.

McCaughey, Mehaffie and Stevens will be sentenced in January and face many possible penalties.

McCaughey was taken into custody after the verdict; McFadden said after his “incredible” testimony, “I honestly don’t trust that he would return for conviction.”

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