WASHINGTON — A Silver Spring man and aspiring Proud Boy who entered the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 was sentenced Wednesday to four months in prison for his role in the Capitol riot.
Beryan Betancur appeared before U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly for sentencing on one misdemeanor count of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. Betancur, who was on probation and wearing a GPS monitor on Jan. 6 due to a 2019 burglary conviction, was among the earliest defendants arrested in connection with the riot. He was taken into custody on Jan. 18, 2021, and charged with five counts. He pleaded guilty in May to a single Class “A” misdemeanor.
Prosecutors on Wednesday asked Kelly to sentence Betancur to six months in prison – the upper end of his recommended sentencing range – arguing he had repeatedly violated the terms of his probation to join the Proud Boys at violent events in D.C. In their sentencing memo, prosecutors said Betancur twice told his probation officer he was going to be handing out Gideon Bibles when he was in fact with members of the group. The first instance occurred on Dec. 12, 2020, when he joined Proud Boys during a pro-Trump rally in D.C. that resulted in violence and the conviction of former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio for destroying a D.C. church’s Black Lives Matter flag. The second instance was Jan. 6.
In images found on his social media, prosecutors say Betancur can be seen wearing a Proud Boys shirt at the riot and posing with a Confederate flag. He eventually climbed scaffolding and entered a room at the Capitol, where he helped other rioters remove furniture that was later broken and used as weapons against police, although Betancur himself was never charged with assault.
Despite Betancur’s interactions with the group, prosecutors noted in their memo the FBI did not believe he ever had a “official affiliation” with the Proud Boys. Rather, they said, a prior attempt to apply to the group found on his cell phone suggested he “aspires to be an official Proud Boys member.”
Betancur’s attorney, federal public defender Ubong Akpan, said Betancur’s troubled upbringing and mental health issues made him “highly susceptible” to the Proud Boys and to the vitriolic speech of Trump and others on Jan. 6. Akpan quoted Tony McAleer, a former member of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Resistance, who said in a 2017 interview with U.S. News & World Report that white nationalism made him feel “power where I felt powerless.”
In an affidavit filed last year, prosecutors said Betancur was a self-professed white supremacist who had “voiced homicidal ideations, made comments about conducting a school shooting and has researched mass shootings.” They also said he’d voice support for neo-Nazi James Fields, the man convicted of killing counterprotester Heather Heyer with his car during the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Prior to sentencing, Kelly ruled Betancur would receive credit for acceptance of responsibility, despite a recommendation from pretrial services that he not because of a combative presentencing interview. Akpan explained Betancur struggled with paranoia, which resulted in his reluctance to provide information to the presentencing report writer. Kelly, though, said Betancur had made a “mockery” of the interview and that he’d never seen such a report during his time as a judge come back with “paragraph after paragraph” where a defendant had refused to answer. Kelly said that was consistent with what he viewed as Betancur’s actions throughout the case.
“I don’t have a record of really any remorse on your part,” Kelly said.
Ultimately, Kelly ordered Bentacur to serve four months in prison, to be followed by a year of supervised release. While on supervision, Betancur will be restricted from possessing firearms and will have to participate in mental health treatment. Betancur will also have to pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol.
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