WASHINGTON (CN) - A Purple Heart recipient filmed pushing against Capitol police on January 6, 2021, made an unsuccessful bid for leniency Monday at his sentencing hearing.
Pointing to his previous service in the Army from 2001 to 2007, as well as his remorse and cooperation with the government, Joshua Lollar, 41, requested that he serve his time in home confinement.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan agreed that Lollar's military service was a consideration, but that it was a factor that cut both ways. Because of his trauma, the Obama appointee observed, Lollar "was a particularly vulnerable individual ... susceptible to calls to act" by former President Donald Trump.
On the other hand, she continued, "you should have known better."
"You are a decorated military veteran ... you took an oath to defend the Constitution, not a particular candidate," Chutkan said.
When he drove from Texas to join the mayhem in Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was set to certify the results of the 2020 election, Lollar was carrying an AR-15. He ultimately left the firearm in his car, which he left parked at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, then made his way to the Capitol with a backpack full of protective gear.
The charging papers describe footage of the mayhem inside the Capitol Rotunda that shows Lollar at the front of a crowd of rioters, wearing a bulletproof vest, gloves and a gas mask while pushing against police officers.
In court Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky likened Lollar to the roly-poly children's toy Weebles, saying that, despite being repelled by law enforcement multiple times, even being pepper-sprayed at one point, "he would weeble, and he would wobble, but he just keeps coming up."
Lollar would later post a video of himself to Facebook, bragging that he "got gassed and fought with the cops," and lauding his fellow rioters.
"We're on the Capitol steps in the back, other patriots in the front, they shut down the vote," Lollar said in the post.
Lollar originally pleaded not guilty to the seven charges against him and requested a jury trial in 2021. After a series of negotiations between Sedky and Lollar's defense attorney, Brian McDaniel, however, Lollar pleaded guilty to obstructing the certification of the 2020 election. The Justice Department dropped counts for assaulting an officer and disorderly conduct in exchange for the plea.
Trying to demonstrate his remorse, Lollar told the court Monday: "I take full responsibility for my actions on January 6."
Chutkan acknowledged that his change of heart was a sign of progress but that it did not diminish the severity of that day and the attempt to overturn the election.
"Two and a half years may have gone by, but you should not benefit from that," Chutkan said. She also added that, while the Capitol riot may have drifted from the public memory, it is still fresh in her mind as she and her colleagues preside over Jan. 6 cases every day.
Offering testimony about the defendant's character, Lollar's father spoke about the injuries his son suffered in Iraq and the trauma he has endured since returning home.
"Joshua's had it tough since he came back from the war, and just as he was getting better, this happened," Grover Lollar said, saying a sentence of home imprisonment would allow his son to face his mental health issues with his parents and children.
Chutkan highlighted the large number of servicemen and women who tried to stop the certification - a report by USAToday says at least 11% of the rioters had served in either the military or law enforcement. She weighed these histories, however, against the horrors endured by law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. "The people inside the building that day were patriots ... and I don't think there is enough remorse for what happened to them that day," Chutkan said.
Nearly 140 police officers - 73 of them Capitol Police officers and 65 of them Metropolitan Police - were assaulted during the Capitol riot. Five died as a result, one during the violence and four more from suicide in the subsequent months.
The Justice Department has charged more than 1,000 people to date in connection with the Capitol riot. As of last month, approximately 541 people have pleaded guilty and 445 have been sentenced.
The FBI investigation is still ongoing, with at least 250 people who assaulted police officers still unidentified.
Source: Courthouse News Service