1 of 2 | Pro-Trump rioters breach the security perimeter and penetrate the U.S. Capitol to protest against the Electoral College vote count that would certify President-elect Joe Biden as the winner in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. Retired Pennsylvania firefighter Robert Sanford was sentenced Tuesday for assaulting three officers with a fire extinguisher during the riot. File photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
April 11 (UPI) -- A retired firefighter from Pennsylvania has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Robert Sanford, 57, was sentenced Tuesday after he apologized to the officers he assaulted and told Senior Judge Paul Friedman he was embarrassed and disgusted by his behavior for himself and for the Chester Fire Department, where he had worked.
"Mob mentality is real, and I got caught up in it," Sanford said Tuesday. "I never wanted to tarnish that reputation. On Jan. 6, I did."
During his brief statement, Sanford said he had come to Washington, D.C., only to attend former President Donald Trump's speech.
Sanford pleaded guilty last September to assaulting, resisting or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon. He was ordered Tuesday to serve 52 months in prison, with credit for the eight months he has already served. He will also have three years of supervised release.
Federal prosecutors said a video shot by a witness during the riot shows Sanford, who was wearing a blue "CFD" cap, throw a fire extinguisher toward a group of officers, striking one in the head who was wearing a helmet. The extinguisher bounces and hits two more officers in the head, including one who was not wearing a helmet.
Prosecutors said one of the officers suffered swelling on his head after being hit, as they argued for a nearly five-year sentence.
Sanford's attorney, Andrew Stewart, pleaded for a lesser sentence, saying Sanford has been undergoing cult deprogramming since his arrest.
"During this process, Mr. Sanford was confronted with facts about the 'stolen election' conspiracy theory among others and how psychological manipulation is used to indoctrinate the followers of a conspiracy," Stewart wrote.
Before sentencing, Judge Friedman commented on Sanford's case and his spotless record as a firefighter for more than two decades.
"I don't think this was minor," Friedman said. "And of all people, a firefighter of 27 years should have known that."