By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Delaware man who threatened a Black police officer with a pole attached to a Confederate battle flag as he stormed the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Thursday to three years in prison.
Kevin Seefried, 53, tearfully apologized for his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced him.
“I never wanted to send a message of hate,” Seefried said.
McFadden said it was deeply troubling that Seefried wielded the flagpole as a weapon against the officer.
“Bringing a Confederate flag into one of our nation’s most sacred halls was outrageous,” the judge said.
Justice Department prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of five years and 10 months for Seefried, a drywall mechanic from Laurel, Delaware.
Seefried and his adult son, Hunter, stormed the Capitol together after attending the “Stop the Steal” rally, where then-President Donald Trump addressed thousands of supporters in Washington. Kevin Seefried was the 12th rioter to set foot inside the building that day, according to prosecutors.
In October, McFadden sentenced Hunter Seefried to two years of imprisonment.
Widely published photographs showed Kevin Seefried carrying his Confederate flag inside the Capitol after he and his son, then 22, entered the building through a broken window.
Kevin Seefried told an FBI agent that he did not view the Confederate flag as a symbol of racist hate. FBI agents said they did not find any evidence linking him or his son to any far-right extremist groups.
Seefried is embarrassed and ashamed that many may view him as a racist, his lawyers said in a court filing.
“He had brought the flag as a symbol of protest, but had not considered the logic of those who see the flag as a symbol of American racism,” they wrote. “Now that photos of him with the flag have become iconic symbols of the horror of January 6, Mr. Seefried completely understands the harm he has caused.”
Within a minute of entering the building, Kevin Seefried jabbed his flagpole at Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman and joined other rioters in chasing the officer up a flight of stairs, a harrowing scene captured on video. Seefried was the first rioter to encounter Goodman near the base of the staircase, prosecutors said.
Goodman, who testified at the Seefrieds’ trial, said Seefried cursed at him and jabbed at him with the base of his flagpole three or four times without making contact. Goodman recalled that Seefried asked where members of Congress were counting the votes and said, “You can shoot me, man, but we’re coming in.”
“That flagpole was not only a weapon capable of causing serious injury; a Confederate Battle flag was affixed to it and it was brandished by a man standing at the front of a volatile, growing mob towards a solitary, Black police officer,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Goodman led rioters away from the Senate chamber as senators and then-Vice President Mike Pence were being evacuated. He also directed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to turn around and head away from the mob.
McFadden convicted the father and son of riot-related charges in June after hearing two days of trial testimony without a jury. The judge convicted both of obstructing an official proceeding, the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
McFadden also convicted the Seefrieds of misdemeanor charges that they engaged in disorderly conduct and illegally demonstrated inside the Capitol. The judge acquitted Hunter Seefried of other misdemeanor charges for clearing a shard of glass from a broken window.
The judge described Kevin Seefreid as the “prime mover” in his family’s decision to travel to Washington on Jan. 6. McFadden rejected the defense argument that the elder Seefried never intended to interfere with the congressional proceedings.
“I find that he knew what he was doing,” McFadden said.
The Seefrieds were the first Capitol riot defendants to get a bench trial on a felony charge. Neither testified.
Nearly 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. More than 500 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Approximately 400 have been sentenced, with over half getting terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Capitol riot at: https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege
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