Capitol rioter who attacked AP photographer and police officers is sentenced to 5 years in prison

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FILE - The statement of facts to support the arrest warrant for Rodney Milstreed of Finksburg, Md., is photographed Tuesday, May 24, 2022 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

WASHINGTON – A man who attacked an Associated Press photographer and threw a flagpole and smoke grenade at police officers guarding the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison.

Rodney Milstreed, 56, of Finksburg, Maryland, “prepared himself for battle” on Jan. 6 by injecting steroids and arming himself with a four-foot wooden club disguised as a flagpole, prosecutors said.

“He began taking steroids in the weeks leading up to January 6, so that he would be ‘jacked’ and ready because, he said, someone needed to ‘hang for treason’ and the battle might come down to hand-to-hand combat,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

A prosecutor showed U.S. District Judge James Boasberg videos of Milstreed's attacks outside the Capitol. Milstreed told the judge that it was painful to watch his violent acts and hear his combative language that day.

“I know what I did that day was very wrong,” he said.

The judge said he believes Milstreed is remorseful.

“On the other side of the ledger, it's very serious conduct,” Boasberg added.

Capitol Police Officer Devan Gowdy suffered a concussion when Milstreed hurled his wooden club at a line of officers.

“January 6th is a day that will be burned into my brain and my nightmares for the rest of my life,” Gowdy told the judge. “The effects of this domestic terrorist attack will never leave me.”

Gowdy told Milstreed that he “will always be looked at as a domestic terrorist and traitor” for his actions on Jan. 6.

“That brings me some peace,” added Gowdy, who has since left the police department.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of six years and six months for Milstreed, a machinist who has worked at oil and gas facilities.

In a letter addressed to the judge before sentencing, Milstreed said he understands the “wrongfulness” of his actions on Jan. 6 and has learned from his “mistakes.”

“I realize if one has concerns or grievances with the government, there are peaceful and appropriate ways to express them,” he wrote.

Milstreed was arrested in May 2022 in Colorado, where he had been working. He pleaded guilty in April to assault charges and possessing an unregistered firearm.

A cache of weapons and ammunition found at Milstreed's Maryland home included an unregistered AR-15 rifle. In his Colorado hotel room, investigators found 94 vials of what appeared to be illegal steroids.

Angry about the 2020 presidential election results, Milstreed spewed violent, threatening rhetoric on social media in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. In late December, he emailed a Maryland chapter of the Proud Boys to inquire about joining the far-right extremist group.

On the morning of Jan. 6, he took a train into Washington, then attended then-President Donald Trump 's “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House and then followed the crowd of Trump supporters to the Capitol.

Milstreed was “front and center” as rioters and police fought for control of the Capitol's West Plaza, prosecutors said. He tossed his wooden club at a police line and struck the helmet of an officer who later was treated for a concussion.

A video captured Milstreed retrieving a smoke grenade from the crowd of rioters and throwing it back at police across a barricade.

Milstreed then joined other rioters in attacking an AP photographer on the Upper West Plaza. He grabbed the photographer's backpack and yanked him down some steps.

“After the photographer stumbled to the bottom of the stairs, Milstreed shoved him and advanced toward him in a threatening fashion,” prosecutors wrote.

Milstreed used Facebook to update his friends on the riot in real time.

“Man I’ve never seen anything like this. I feel so alive." he wrote to one friend, sharing photos of blood on a floor outside the Capitol.

He told another Facebook friend that it “felt good” to punch the photographer, whose assault was captured on video by another AP photographer.

Other rioters have been charged with attacking the same photographer. One of them — Alan Byerly, 55, of Pennsylvania — was sentenced last October to two years and 10 months in prison.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with Jan. 6-related federal crimes. Over 650 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds of them getting a term of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.

More than 100 police officers were injured during the riot.