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Monday, December 05, 2022

Man waving Confederate flag pleads guilty to Capitol riot

A Maryland man holding a Confederate flag pinned to a lacrosse stick during the siege of the US Capitol on Tuesday pleaded guilty to interfering with a police officer who was trying to disperse a crowd of rioters .

David Blair, 27, faces a maximum five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a felony charge of obstruction of law enforcement during a civil disorder. Estimated sentencing guidelines in Blair’s case recommend a term of imprisonment ranging from eight to 14 months.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper will sentence Blair on July 13.

Blair has been charged with assaulting a Metropolitan Police Department officer outside the Capitol during the January 6, 2021 attack by a crowd of Donald Trump supporters. Blair wore a skull-themed face mask and taunted the officer profanely, beating him with a wooden lacrosse stick decorated with a Confederate battle flag, prosecutors said. An officer’s body camera took a video of Blair waving the flag in front of a crowd trying to disperse police.

A jury trial for Blair is set to begin on May 2 in Washington, DC

Blair was not the only rioter to bring a Confederate flag to the Capitol. A man who draped himself in a Confederate flag on January 6 pleaded guilty to joining the mob that disrupted Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. That man – Matthew Ryan Miller, 23, of Cooksville, Maryland – is expected to be sentenced on May 23.

Police initially arrested Blair on the day of the riot and took him to a hospital to be treated for a cut to his head.

The FBI arrested Blair in February 2021. A federal grand jury has indicted him on charges including assaulting, resisting or obstructing police with a dangerous weapon, a flagpole.

Blair’s lawyer disputed that the flagpole in question – a lacrosse stick – was a deadly or dangerous weapon.

Defense attorney Terrell Roberts III argued that Blair was legally exercising his First Amendment rights in public areas west of the Capitol when police arrested him. An officer blinded Blair and bumped him without warning or ordered him to leave the area, Roberts claimed.

“In response to this legally unjustified use of force, (Blair) used his lacrosse stick to block or control the officer, whose baton was raised vertically in his right hand,” Roberts said in a court ruling in February 2022. writing.. “The officer was not injured or injured, and such resistance, which was lawful under the circumstances, did not provide a basis for believing that there was probable cause to arrest the accused.”

Roberts also argued that an officer illegally seized a knife from a backpack Blair was carrying when police arrested him.

Prosecutors said Blair refused to comply with police orders to move out of West Lawn, a restricted area of ​​Capitol grounds, before assaulting the officer.

“The record confirms that Blair heard this order because he shouted at the group: ‘Stop backing up!’ and ‘We are Americans!’ ”wrote Michael Liebman, Assistant U.S. Attorney in a March 1 court ruling. Prosecutors also maintained that police had searched Blair’s backpack legally.

FBI agents seized a notebook containing writing about the events of Jan. 6 as they searched the home in Clarksburg, Maryland, which Blair shared with his mother. The phrase “Save USA” was written on top of a notebook page, the FBI said.

More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. More than 240 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to crimes that can be punished with a maximum of six months in prison. Two others were found guilty of riot-related charges after a trial.

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