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Judge sentences Capitol rioter who 'undoubtedly came looking for a fight' to 4 years in prison

Lucas Denney pleaded guilty in March to assaulting police with a PVC pipe during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol Building.

WASHINGTON — A federal judge sentenced a former military police officer and Texas militia founder Wednesday to more than four years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, saying he’d clearly come to D.C. prepared for a fight.

Lucas Denney, of Kinney County, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss for sentencing Wednesday afternoon on one count of assaulting police with a dangerous weapon. Denney was initially charged via criminal complaint with multiple felony counts alleging a conspiracy with his co-defendant Donald Hazard. However, Denney became “lost” in the system while in pretrial detention and was inexplicably not transferred to D.C. for 45 days after a detention hearing in December 202. Moss was prepared to dismiss the case in March over speedy trial violations when Denney entered a surprise guilty plea to a last-minute indictment prosecutors sought from a grand jury on the single assault count.

Denney’s guilty plea came without an offer in place from the government, meaning Wednesday attorneys for both sides spent the first part of the hearing arguing over whether Denney should receive enhancements for planning, using a dangerous weapon and wearing body armor that had the potential to add years to his sentencing guideline. Moss denied the government’s request for the body armor enhancement, saying he didn’t think the “stab-proof” vest Denney wore met the requirements. Moss granted the other two enhancements, agreeing with the government that Denney had engaged in significant planning prior to Jan. 6 and had “undoubtedly come looking for a fight.”

In charging documents filed last December, prosecutors said Denney had formed a militia group with Hazard called the “Patriot Boys of North Texas,” and was in contact with the Proud Boys about plans for Jan. 6. On Christmas Day 2020, according to Facebook messages obtained by investigators, Denney told Hazard they would be linking up in D.C. with Proud Boys who would be “helping us out with safe hotels to get.” Denney’s attorney, William Shipley, confirmed in court Wednesday the Proud Boys had provided Denney and Hazard with hotel rooms for Jan. 6.

“I can’t tell you everything I know over media here but it’s gonna be big,” Denney wrote to Hazard in December 2020.

In previous filings, prosecutors described the charges against Denney as second only to the Oath Keepers – five of whom were also in the courthouse Wednesday for jury selection in their seditious conspiracy case. On Wednesday, they told Moss Denney had showed “far and beyond some of the most meticulous and extensive planning of any Jan. 6 defendant.”

Although Denney pleaded to only a single count of assault, prosecutors – and Moss – said his conduct amounted to much more than that. In court, Moss repeatedly referred to a still image showing Denney punching a police officer in the face, and prosecutors played footage showing him pepper spraying another officer and then throwing a large, heavy cardboard cylinder into the police line. The actual assault he pleaded guilty to involved a PVC pipe, although Denney claimed during his plea hearing that he only intended to use the pipe to avoid getting pepper sprayed himself.

Moss said it was also indisputable to him from other video of the event that Denney, who had been in the Lower West Terrace Tunnel during some of the worst assaults on police, had attempted to throw a punch at DC Police Officer Mike Fanone while he was being dragged into the mob. Moss said that although none of Denney’s assaultive conduct caused physical injuries, they had certainly caused “tremendous psychic injury.”

“Mr. Denney should know as a veteran the type of psychological scars being in battle can cause,” Moss said.

Though Moss declined to give Denney an enhancement for wearing body armor, he also rejected his explanation for why he’d worn it, saying the vague threat of antifa Denney raised wasn’t plausible.

“It strikes me that a much more plausible explanation is antifa is a convenient, made-up goblin to justify whatever you want to do,” Moss said.

What Denney wanted to do on Jan. 6, prosecutors said Wednesday, was fight. The Justice Department described him as “relentless in his pursuit of conflict” and told Moss that Denney had engaged officers over and over again for 45 minutes in multiple locations.

Denney himself gave a short statement Wednesday, briefly apologizing for his actions and then asking Moss to show mercy to his family which, he said, had been struggling since his arrest.

“I’m asking you to end this nightmare and let me go home to my family, who I dearly love,” Denney said.

Moss ultimately did grant Denney a slight downward variance in consideration of his role as a single father. He ordered him to serve 52 months in prison – five months below the lower end of the 57-71 month recommended guideline – to be followed by 36 months of supervised release. Moss also agreed to recommend Denney be placed at the federal correctional facility in Seagoville, Texas, near Denney’s home. Denney will receive credit for the approximately nine months he’s already served in pretrial detention since his arrest.

Before delivering the sentence, Moss told Denney his actions had written a page into American history that couldn't be erased.

"There are events in our history that get seared into our collective consciousness — traumatic events we experience as a whole — and I think this is one of those that's going to leave a scar," Moss said.

Denney’s co-defendant, Donald Hazard, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. In a status report filed earlier this month, attorneys said Hazard was still discussing the terms of a plea offer presented by the government. No trial date has been set in that case.

We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.

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