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July 27, 2022

Another notable lengthy sentence imposed on another Jan 6 rioter

This Washington Post article, headlined "D.C. man is 2nd to receive longest sentence in Jan. 6 police assault; Mark K. Ponder, 56, was handed a 63-month prison term for attacking police in the Capitol riot," reports on yet another notable sentencing in yet another January 6 riot case.  Here are excerpts:

A District man who assaulted three police officers and shattered a riot shield with a pole was sentenced to 63 months in prison Tuesday, matching the longest sentence handed down to a defendant convicted in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Mark K. Ponder, 56, admitted to fighting with police in video-recorded confrontations between 2:31 p.m. and 2:48 p.m. that day in the area of the lower west terrace of the Capitol, which was overrun by a violent mob angered by President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.  Ponder pleaded guilty April 22 to one count of assaulting an officer using a dangerous weapon.

“He was leading the charge,” U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan said, reciting at sentencing how Ponder smashed a thin pole against an officer’s riot shield so hard that the pole broke and the shield shattered, then found a thicker pole, colored red, white and blue, and resumed fighting.  “He wasn’t defending himself or anybody else. He was attempting to injure those officers, and we are lucky [someone] was not killed with the force Mr. Ponder is swinging those poles,” the judge said.

Chutkan in December handed down a similar 63-month sentence to Robert S. Palmer, 54, of Largo, Fla., who joined the front of the mob and hurled a fire extinguisher, plank and pole at police. Like Palmer, Ponder was “part of a group who, when they couldn’t get what they wanted, decided they were going to take it.  And they were going to take it with violence,” Chutkan said, saying they felt entitled “to attack law enforcement officers who were just doing their jobs.”...

Chutkan has emerged as the toughest sentencing judge in Capitol riot cases and exceeded prosecutors’ request to sentence Ponder to five years in prison, the low end of a federal advisory sentencing range of 57 to 71 months, in keeping with a plea deal.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn P. Bond said a five-year term was justified by the seriousness of the offense as well as by Ponder’s return to the scene at 4 and 5 p.m. after he was tackled, handcuffed and then told to leave by police because officers needed to reinforce other parts of the Capitol complex....

Former U.S. Capitol Police sergeant Aquilino Gonell gave an in-person victim impact statement, telling the court as one of the officers struck by Ponder that there is “no doubt” he understood he was hitting police officers and “had the will and the intent to continue doing harm.”  The former sergeant said that he took early retirement as a result of the attack, that he was left with mental and physical injuries and that “my family has suffered, emotionally and financially.” Gonell told Chutkan that Ponder’s claim that he got “caught up” in the violence “is BS, and please don’t fall for it.” “He has changed my life,” said Gonell, a 16-year police veteran who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Ponder asked for mercy, saying that while like Palmer he had a criminal history, he was a “changed person for the last 12 years” since his release from prison after convictions for bank and armed robbery. “I never meant for this to happen. I went there with the intention of going on a peaceful protest,” Ponder said. But he said that he “wasn’t thinking” after he was pepper-sprayed by police, and after the tension and anger in the crowd stoked by the former president erupted into “chaos.”...

Defense attorney Joseph R. Conte added that Ponder, a lifelong resident of the Washington area, overcame a crack cocaine addiction and before Jan. 6 had no contact with police since his incarceration. Ponder was the product of a broken home and suffered abuse as a child “as severe as any I’ve seen in my career,” Conte said, to which Chutkan responded, “I don’t disagree.” The judge waived any fine and said she would recommend that Ponder be allowed to serve his sentence near Washington, saying she hoped the defendant “will be able to get mental health treatment and counseling and be able to live the rest of his life without getting into trouble with law enforcement.”

Some of many prior related posts:

July 27, 2022 at 08:38 AM | Permalink

Comments

While I know that we now have a guidelines system and there are differences in the offenses (one can argue which was more severe -- a smaller, but more violent, wanting independence for a U.S. territory or a larger, but less violent, group wanting to prevent the certification of election results), I recently saw a meme comparing the current sentences to the sentences imposed seventy years ago on the Puerto Ricans who invaded the U.S. House (all four participants were sentenced to lengthy terms with the shortest being 50 years and served over 20 years before their sentences were commuted).

Posted by: tmm | Jul 28, 2022 10:57:58 AM

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