A man who attacked police officers with poles during the riot at the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Tuesday to more than five years in prison, matching the longest term of imprisonment so far among hundreds of Capitol riot prosecutions.
Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., said he "got caught up” in the chaos that erupted on Jan. 6, 2021, and “didn't mean for any of this to happen.”
“I wasn't thinking that day,” Ponder told U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, asking her for mercy before she sentenced him to five years and three months in prison.
That was three months longer than the prison sentence requested by prosecutors. And it's the same sentence that Chutkan gave Robert Palmer, a Florida man who also pleaded guilty to assaulting police at the Capitol.
More than 200 other Capitol riot defendants have been sentenced so far. None received a longer prison sentence than Ponder or Palmer.
Chutkan said Ponder was “leading the charge” against police officers trying to hold off the mob that disrupted Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
“This is not ‘caught up,’ Mr. Ponder,” she said. “He was intent on attacking and injuring police officers. This was not a protest.”
Chutkan has consistently taken a hard line in punishing Capitol rioters. She has handed down terms of imprisonment to all 13 riot defendants who have come before her, matching or exceeding the Justice Department's sentencing recommendation in every case, according to an Associated Press review of court records.
Prosecutors had recommended a five-year prison sentence for Ponder, who has been jailed since his arrest in March 2021.
In April, Ponder pleaded guilty to an assault charge punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a prison term ranging from nearly five years to just under six years, but Chutkan wasn't bound by those recommendations.
More than 100 police officers were injured during the riot.
Defense attorney Joseph Conte said Ponder was “caught up in the madness that was January 6.” Conte asked for a sentence below the guidelines range.
Ponder swung a pole at a Capitol police officer on the Capitol's West Plaza, breaking it against the officer's shield. After retreating into the crowd, Ponder grabbed a sturdier pole colored in red, white, and blue stripes. He used it to assault two other officers, hitting one of them in the left shoulder, before police detained and handcuffed him.
Outnumbered officers released Ponder because they couldn't get a police vehicle to transport him. They told him to leave the Capitol, but Ponder stayed and joined a mob of rioters clashing with police at a tunnel.
Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, one of the officers assaulted by Ponder, said the force of Ponder's blow shattered his shield.
“It was horrific,” Gonell said during Ponder's sentencing hearing. “That particular day will impact me for the rest of my life.”
After his arrest, Ponder told FBI agents that he typically supports police but viewed the officers as “part of the problem” that day.
“At some point in time, the way this country is going, you gonna have to pick a side,” he said, according to prosecutors.
Ponder attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 to hear then-President Donald Trump's speech and to “peacefully protest the results of the election and the lack of attention to alleged voting irregularities,” Conte wrote in a court filing.
“He did so with no intent to do anything but add his voice to the vocal protests over the injustice he perceived had happened in the election," the attorney added. “Unfortunately, he got caught up in the riotous atmosphere of the crowd and erroneously perceived the police as standing in the way of the crowd’s desire to protest the election results.”
Ponder has a substantial criminal record spanning three decades, including a 2008 conviction for bank robbery, according to prosecutors.
More than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Over 350 riot defendants have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or a judge after trials.
More than 220 of them have been sentenced, including approximately 100 who received a term of imprisonment. Ponder is the 15th to be sentenced to a prison term exceeding one year.
The prison sentences for Ponder and Palmer may not be the lengthiest for much longer. Prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who was convicted of storming the Capitol with a holstered handgun. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich is scheduled to sentence Reffitt on Monday.
Multiple Coloradans have been charged in connection to the Jan. 6 attack, including:
- Jacob Clark of Trinidad was arrested in April 2021 on multiple charges in connection to the Jan. 6 riot. He demanded police officers to stand down during the attack.
- Glen Wes Lee Croy, of Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing inside the Capitol in August 2021. He was sentenced in November to 90 days of house arrest along with 14 days in a community correctional facility. He called himself an idiot.
- Tyler Earl Ethridge of Colorado Springs was arrested in July 2022 in Denver and faces six federal charges for his participation in the riot. He is a pastor who graduated from Charis Bible College in Woodland Park.
- Robert Gieswein of Woodland Park was arrested and faced multiple charges in January 2021 in connection to the Jan. 6 riot, including assault on an officer "with a spray canister, temporary barrier, and baseball bat," according to his arrest affidavit. He remains in custody.
- Logan Grover of Erie was charged in April 2021 with disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds, and demonstrating in a capitol building. He pleaded guilty in July 2022. He served in the Army Reserve for nearly 10 years and was deployed to Iraq, according to The Denver Post.
- Thomas Patrick Hamner of Peyton was arrested and charged in November 2021. Videos allegedly showed him fighting with Capitol and Metropolitan Police.
- Lisa Ann Homer of Colorado Springs was arrested in November 2021 in Colorado Springs. She faces charges of illegally entering the capitol, disorderly and disruptive conduct on capitol grounds, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a capitol building.
- Jennifer Horvath of Colorado Springs was arrested and charged in May 2022 on multiple federal charges. She was located after FBI agents linked her to her boyfriend Glen Wes Lee Croy (listed above), who was also arrested, charged and sentenced for his involvement.
- Klete Keller, an Olympian from Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding after storming the U.S. Capitol in September 2021. He faces 21 to 27 months in prison.
- Avery Carter MacCracken of San Miguel County was charged in December 2021 with assaulting officers in the Jan. 6 riot. He was arrested in Norwood on six federal charges. He was captured on videos and in photos fighting with U.S. Capitol Police officers.
- Patrick Montgomery of Douglas County was charged in January 2021 with knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. According to an affidavit for his arrest, federal investigators were tipped off by someone who saw Montgomery in photos from inside the Capitol posted to Facebook.
- Daniel Michael Morrissey was charged in federal court in November 2021 for illegally entering the U.S. Capitol. He faces charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, knowingly engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in any restricted buildings or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
- Hunter Palm of Colorado Springs was arrested in May 2021 after he allegedly entered U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6. He was identified to federal investigators by a family member.
- Jeffrey Sabol of Jefferson County is accused of dragging a police officer down steps to be beaten by an American flag outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A federal judge denied him bail in April 2021. After the attack, prosecutors said he tried to fly to Switzerland.
- Timothy Williams of Trinidad was charged in June 2021 with multiple federal crimes. FBI agents found Williams on videos of the rioters inside the Capitol that day.