WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says a former D.C. Proud Boy who caused Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s security detail to reroute his evacuation on Jan. 6 should serve five years in prison.
Last year, a grand jury indicted Joshua Pruitt, now of Tennessee, on eight counts for entering the U.S. Capitol Building shortly before the initial breach of the building by another Proud Boy, Dominic Pezzola. Prosecutors said in court filings Pruitt could be seen throwing a sign across the atrium and joining a pack of people who confronted U.S. Capitol Police officers in the Crypt.
“The officers engaged Pruitt and the pack, who then disappeared off-screen; an officer then reappeared, dragged by another back to safety,” prosecutors wrote. “Pruitt later bragged after the incident that his ‘hand is swollen, cop came at [him] for no reason so… I dropped his a**.’”
Pruitt was already on probation or pretrial release at the time in both Maryland and Georgia and was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor. He was granted pretrial release following his arrest, but that was revoked in January in response to multiple curfew violations and reports of threatening behavior online.
In June, Pruitt accepted a plea deal for one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding. As part of the deal, prosecutors noted he could face an estimated sentencing range of 51 to 63 months in prison. That calculation includes Pruitt’s extensive criminal history, which prosecutors have said includes 19 prior arrests and eight convictions in Maryland, Virginia, Nevada, D.C. and Georgia.
Ahead of his sentencing hearing, prosecutors filed a motion last week asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly to order him to serve 60 months in prison. Describing him as a “one-man symbol of the angry mob,” prosecutors said Pruitt – wearing tactical gloves with knuckle pads and a “Punisher” logo t-shirt – made a calculated choice to use his “thickly muscled appearance to communicate to the police that they faced a dangerous person.”
Pruitt was also one of the few rioters, they said, who came face-to-face with an evacuating member of Congress.
“One look at Pruitt, and the leader of Senator Schumer’s security detail immediately saw the threat and hustled the 70-year-old Senator down a hallway, having to change their evacuation route on a dime,” assistant U.S. attorney Alexis Loeb wrote in her sentencing memo. “As the leader of the security detail later told the FBI, when he saw Pruitt coming toward them, only seconds from reaching Senator Schumer, it was harrowing – a moment, he told the FBI, he would never forget.”
Prosecutors also pointed to Pruitt’s affiliation with the far-right Proud Boys as exacerbating his role on Jan. 6. Pruitt was inducted into the group by former chairman Enrique Tarrio himself amid a night of violence in D.C. following the so-called “Million Maga March” on Nov. 14, 2020. Pruitt was part of an encrypted chat involving Maryland and D.C. Proud Boys ahead of the riot that included, according to prosecutors, talk of a “looming civil war.” The chat included predictions and encouragement about violence on Jan. 6 – which Pruitt joined in, according to prosecutors.
“On January 3, another member of the chat circulated a YouTube video posted by an individual supporting the payment of reparations to African people,” Loeb wrote. “Referring to the poster, Pruitt responded, ‘Hope I get to see him on the 6th… he will continue his life eating out of a f***ing tube.’”
Pruitt also noted his girlfriend had recently left him, which made him “even more dangerous,” he said. When Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4for his role in the burning of a church’s Black Lives Matter flag in December, Pruitt told the chat, “I’m going for blood now,” and, “Now I’m in f***ing battle mode.”
Pruitt was originally scheduled to be sentenced Friday, but Kelly moved that hearing to Monday due to scheduling conflicts. During a short hearing this week, Kelly also told Pruitt’s defense attorney to consider whether he wanted to call officers to the stand to testify to claims about Pruitt’s threatening demeanor made in prosecutors’ sentencing memo.
In his sentencing memo, filed Monday, Pruitt’s attorney Robert L. Jenkins asked for a 36-month sentence, all or some of which to be served on home confinement. Jenkins acknowledged Pruitt’s criminal history, but said the “common thread” of his encounters with law enforcement was alcohol. As such, Jenkins said, alcohol abuse treatment would be more beneficial a corrective measure than incarceration. Jenkins said Pruitt’s history of abusing steroids and cocaine – which he was convicted of possessing in 2004 – back up that assertion. Jenkins also said Pruitt was not involved in any “organized pre-planning” ahead of Jan. 6, despite his membership in the Proud Boys, and that his presence at the Capitol stemmed from his belief in the stolen election.
“On January 6, 2021 Mr. Pruitt, along with nearly 40,000 other participants, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump went to the Capitol,” Jenkins wrote. “This Honorable Court is all too familiar with what would soon follow. It is noteworthy that Mr. Pruitt did not participate in the physical breach of the Capitol. He entered the Capitol after others had caused the breach. Once in the Capitol Mr. Pruitt is not charged with assaulting anyone. He admits that as the events unfolded Mr. Pruitt became overwhelmed by his emotions and true belief that the election results were polluted by fraud. He regrets his actions.”
Pruitt was scheduled to be sentenced by Kelly on Monday at 10 a.m.
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