WASHINGTON — A former Washington, D.C., bartender and Proud Boy who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was sentenced to 55 months in federal prison on Monday.
Joshua Pruitt, 40, pleaded guilty in June to obstruction of an official proceeding after he was caught on video joining a mob pursuing police officers and smashing a sign inside the U.S. Capitol. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers wrote victim impact statements urging U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly to give Pruitt a severe sentence.
Ultimately, Kelly imposed a sentence that fell a few months short of the five years prosecutors had requested.
Pruitt said that he apologized for his actions and that he was “not happy that Jan. 6 happened at all,” but he said he still held onto his beliefs that Donald Trump actually won the election, which he lost to President Joe Biden.“I did believe the election was stolen. I still do,” Pruitt said, speaking from a lectern farther away from the judge than usual, which was set up for defendants who aren’t vaccinated against Covid.
“I broke the law, bottom line, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong on my feelings,” Pruitt said.
Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., a court-appointed attorney for Pruitt, said outside the courtroom that there was no convincing Pruitt otherwise.
“We’ve had many conversations about it, and Mr. Pruitt is firm in his belief,” Jenkins said in response to a question from NBC News. Jenkins said Pruitt’s family was “extremely dismayed” that Pruitt had gotten himself involved in the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Kelly and Pruitt’s own attorney said alcohol played a role in Pruitt’s behaviors on Jan. 6, although a federal prosecutor pointed out that Pruitt’s actions at the Capitol would have come about six hours after he said he was drinking Jack Daniel’s on the morning of Jan. 6. Pruitt’s attorney said Pruitt had an alcohol problem, even if he wasn’t willing to admit it himself.
Jenkins said the other members of the D.C.-Maryland Proud Boys chapter, whose texts were found on Pruitt’s phone, should be concerned that they could be prosecuted.
Some of the texts, which were previously released in court documents, included discussion of plans to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and about “storming” the Capitol steps and surrounding the building.
“I think [they] should be very concerned,” Jenkins said. “Very, very concerned.”
Pruitt came close to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Jan. 6, sending him and his security team running in the other direction.
A member of Schumer’s Capitol Police security team wrote about their near-meeting with Pruitt in his victim impact statement. “Every day I enter the beacon of our country, the U.S. Capitol, I relive the memories of that day, and none are as impactful as the moments I saw Mr. Pruitt approaching us with the intent to inflict harm to the Majority Leader,” the officer wrote. “It was only due to our teams’ preplanning of alternate evacuations procedures and quick actions that this impending meeting did not result in blood shed or serious bodily injury.”
Pruitt told the judge that it was “in bad taste” for him to throw a wooden sign in the Capitol, but Kelly said it “was a lot more than being in bad taste.”
Kelly said it was “extremely troubling” that Pruitt didn’t express regret for his actions in media interviews before he pleaded guilty.
“There was nothing patriotic about what happened that day — far from it,” Kelly said. “It was a national disgrace.”