A California man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to using a stun gun to attack a Washington, D.C., police officer who was brutally injured while trying to defend the U.S. Capitol from the angry mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6, 2021.
Daniel Rodriguez, 40, of Fontana, admitted to taking part in the violent assault on former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone after another rioter dragged the officer into the crowd outside the tunnel where police were trying to beat back the mob. Fanone, who at one point lost consciousness and suffered a heart attack, was heard on camera screaming that he has kids in a desperate appeal for his life as other rioters beat him.
Rodriguez’s guilty plea comes about two weeks before jury selection was supposed to begin in his trial in Washington’s federal court. He pleaded guilty in Washington’s federal court to four felony charges including conspiracy and assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
An email seeking comment was sent to his lawyers on Tuesday. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in May. Federal sentencing guidelines call for about seven to 10 years in prison, according to court papers.
Rodriguez admitted in an interview with FBI agents after his arrest in March 2021 that he drove a stun gun into Fanone’s neck. Rodriguez told agents that he had believed that he was doing the “right thing” on Jan. 6 and that he had been prepared to die to “save the country.” He cried as he spoke to the agents, saying he was “stupid” and ashamed by his actions.
Rodriguez’s attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to block prosecutors from using his FBI interview at trial, arguing that the agents used “psychologically coercive tactics” to get him to talk.
Authorities say Rodriguez and others were part of a Telegram group chat called “PATRIOTS 45 MAGA Gang” in the run-up to Jan. 6 in which they advocated violence and discussed what they viewed as a stolen election. In one post on Dec. 29, 2020, Rodriguez wrote in the chat: “Congress can hang. I’ll do it. Please let us get these people dear God,” according to charging papers.
At the Capitol, Rodriguez was part of the mob that pushed into the tunnel where officers were trying to fend off the rioters, prosecutors said. Inside the tunnel, another rioter handed him the stun gun that he would later apply to the back of Fanone’s neck, according to court papers. After assaulting Fanone, Rodriguez entered the Capitol through a broken window. Later, he texted his friends: “Tazzed the (expletive) out of the blue,” they said.
Others charged with assaulting Fanone include Albuquerque Cosper Head, who wrapped his arms around Fanone’s neck and dragged him into the crowd outside the tunnel. Head restrained Fanone while other rioters attacked him. Head was sentenced in October to more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty to an assault charge.
Fanone said at Head’s sentencing that he suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury and that his injuries ultimately cost him his career. He has written a book about his Jan. 6 experience and testified at a hearing held by the House committee investigating the insurrection.
Another man, Kyle Young, who helped in the sustained assault on the officer, was sentenced in September to seven years and two months in prison. Young grabbed the officer by the wrist while others yelled, “Kill him!” and “Get his gun!”
They are among the longest sentences that have been handed down so far in the riot.
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.
Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press reporter Michael Kunzelman contributed from Washington.