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Ohio man sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison for attacks on police during Capitol riot

People climbing the Capitol building on January 6, 2021
Blink O'fanaye
/
flickr
People climbing the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

An Ohio man who repeatedly attacked police officers as he joined a mob of Donald Trump supporters in storming the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Thursday to nearly five years in prison.

Kenneth Joseph Owen Thomas has acted as a “one-man misinformation machine” since the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, using his social media platforms to spread false narratives about the attack, according to federal prosecutors. They say Thomas produces more than 20 hours of Jan. 6-related online content every week.

“The primary message Thomas attempts to convey throughout all of his appearances is ‘Jan 6th was a Setup,’ words that are emblazoned front and center on the landing page for the website and ‘brand’ he created after his arrest,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Thomas, 41, of East Liverpool, Ohio, to four years and 10 months of incarceration, according to online court records. The judge also ordered him to pay a $20,000 fine and $2,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors recommended a prison term of nine years and one month and sought a fine of $77,607. Thomas, they say, has raised at least that much money in online forums, including a website called, “Help Joseph Thomas Let Freedom Sing.”

Thomas was arrested in Huntsville, Alabama, in May 2021. In June 2023, a jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Thomas of assault charges and other offenses. Jurors also acquitted him of two counts, including obstruction of a congressional proceeding, and deadlocked on two other counts.

Thomas' attorneys said he is “brutally aware of the seriousness of his conduct” on Jan. 6 and takes “full and complete responsibility for his actions.”

“None of the officers contacted by Mr. Thomas on Jan. 6 reported any physical pain or injuries attributed to Mr. Thomas. In fact at least one of the officers openly admitted under oath in open court that he didn’t even remember Mr. Thomas at all,” the defense lawyers wrote.

More than 100 police officers were injured at the Capitol, where the mob temporarily stopped Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory over Trump.

Thomas attended Trump's Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House with his wife and daughter, but he left them behind as he marched to the Capitol.

Thomas physically and verbally attacked police lines and urged other rioters to “hold the line” with him, prosecutors said. He also repeatedly shouted at police to ”stand down" and joined a chant calling them “traitors.”

Police body camera video captured Thomas charging at a line of officers in riot gear, shoving an officer who pushed him back down a set of steps.

“Undeterred by having been repulsed once, Thomas again pumped his arms and charged full speed up the steps a second time,” prosecutors wrote.

Video shows him pushing another officer's chest. Over the next hour, he continued to harass and push back against officers who were trying to clear the Capitol's Upper West Terrace, prosecutors said.

A police officer who testified at Thomas' trial said rioters turned their backs on police, linked arms and collectively pushed against the line of officers.

“When we were trying to push, I remember just being pressed so hard it felt like my lungs caving in. It felt like they couldn’t expand. I couldn’t breathe,” the officer said, according to prosecutors.

Thomas appeared to be streaming live video while attacking police, according to prosecutors.

“Despite Thomas’ persistent efforts to minimize and, in fact to valorize, his conduct, he was a key figure in a violent riot and assaulted numerous police officers,” prosecutors wrote.

Thomas served in the U.S. Navy but was dismissed after getting punished three times for misconduct. He also has a criminal record that includes convictions for domestic battery and burglary, according to prosecutors.

Approximately 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial. Over 700 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.

The Associated Press