Rioter who punched police officer at US Capitol should get over 3.5 years in prison, prosecutors say

By Marshall Cohen

    (CNN) -- A New Jersey gym owner deserves more than 3.5 years in prison for punching a police officer while storming the US Capitol, the Justice Department said in a court filing on Wednesday, recommending the harshest punishment to date for one of the January 6 rioters.

Scott Fairlamb was the first rioter to plead guilty to assaulting a police officer during the siege.

The tough recommendation comes after weeks of critiques -- from Democratic lawmakers and the chief judge in DC"s federal court -- that prosecutors are too soft on the Capitol rioters.

Fairlamb's sentence will be decided by a judge at a hearing next week. He also pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of congressional proceedings, namely the Electoral College certification.

Prosecutors said they recommended 44 months in prison because there are aggravating factors in Fairlamb's case, which differentiates him from many of the low-level cases that have been resolved with misdemeanor pleas and light sentences, like probation or a few weeks in jail.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to a range of 41 to 51 months behind bars. Technically, the two crimes could lead to a maximum of 28 years in prison.

In a lengthy court filing, prosecutors explained their rationale. Fairlamb has two prior assault convictions. He posed with an "AREA CLOSED" sign outside the Capitol, proving that he knew he was on restricted grounds. He climbed the inauguration scaffolding and didn't simply meander into the building. He harangued police officers who had waded through the mob, and ultimately punched one in the face. Days later, he told a friend he'd "go again" to the Capitol.

Prosecutors also highlighted how Fairlamb had been inspired by Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon to disrupt the Electoral College proceedings. On January 5, Fairlamb shared a tweet with a now-infamous quote from Bannon on his radio show, where he said, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow."

The Bannon reference is notable because the Justice Department is mulling whether to bring criminal charges against him for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating January 6. In a bipartisan vote, the House held Bannon in contempt last month.

The sentencing memo also included new details about threats Fairlamb allegedly made against Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat and Black Lives Matter activist. In an Instagram post, Fairlamb tagged Bush and said he "shoulda lit your ass up," presumably while in the Capitol. The post contained screenshots of racist and sexist threats against Bush.

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