U.S. Capitol rioter sentenced to more than five years in prison for attacking police

Trump supporter Mark Ponder is sentenced to 63 months in prison for attacking police with a pole during the January 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol. File Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, D.C.

July 26 (UPI) — A federal judge has sentenced a supporter of former President Donald Trump to more than five years in prison for assaulting police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol.

The 63-month sentence for Mark Ponder, with three years of supervised release, is tied for the longest sentence to date in the riots. Robert Scott Palmer, who attacked police with a fire extinguisher, also received 63 months in prison.

Ponder, who told the FBI he thought the 2020 election was stolen, pleaded guilty in April and has been held without bond since March 2021. He was caught on camera striking officers with a long red, white and blue pole according to the FBI affidavit in his case. The affidavit said Ponder remained on Capitol grounds for nearly 3 hours and took part in a second violent assault after being detained for attacking officers earlier in the day.

“When our country is being attacked with, like we are, we have a right to fight,” Ponder told other rioters. “That is what the Second Amendment was built on,” he said, per the affidavit.

Ponder, 56, also lectured officers who arrested him and called them “part of the problem.”

“You know, deep in your heart, you know … that your fathers, your grandfathers, they fought for this freedom in which people are giving away,” Ponder said, per the affidavit. “The thing is, at some point you are going to have to choose and make up your mind what side you are going to take … that’s what we fighting for because they are stealing that right … and it’s blatant, everybody can see it,” he said.

Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, one of the U.S. Capitol Police officers attacked, testified Tuesday at Ponder’s sentencing hearing.

“He didn’t care whether I was a police officer or not. He didn’t care I had a family or not,” Gonell said.

Last year, Gonell testified before the House select committee about how he was injured in the Jan. 6 attack.

“What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battle; a violent mob intent on subverting our democracy,” Gonell said in July 2021 as he recalled being crushed by rioters pushing into the Capitol.

At one point, court documents said Ponder struck Gonell’s riot shield with a pole, cracking the shield and breaking the pole. Ponder then found another pole and continued to swing at police, the affidavit said.

Before handing down her sentence Tuesday, D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan admonished Ponder who “wasn’t defending himself or anyone else; he was trying to injure those officers.”

Ponder asked the judge for mercy saying he had been pepper sprayed and got caught up in “the tensions of that day.”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Ponder told the judge. “That day I wasn’t thinking, and I’m extremely sorry for that.”

Capitol Hill police salute the passing of the funeral hearse on Sunday for slain Officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo