‘Like an animal’: Jan. 6 defendant who pinned officer in tunnel is sentenced to 7.5 years

‘Like an animal’: Jan. 6 defendant who pinned officer in tunnel is sentenced to 7.5 years

Few images captured the visceral violence and horror of Jan. 6 more clearly than the moment Patrick McCaughey — a 23-year-old from Connecticut — pinned a D.C. Police officer, Daniel Hodges, in a Capitol doorway as he howled in pain.

On Friday, more than two years later, McCaughey was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for his role in the riot and attempt by supporters of Donald Trump to prevent the transfer of power to Joe Biden. His sentence is among the lengthiest handed down to Jan. 6 rioters so far, though it was less than half of the nearly 16 years that the Justice Department sought.

McCaughey, who stood before U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden in an orange jumpsuit while he awaited his fate, delivered a profuse apology for his conduct, describing his behavior on Jan. 6 as “monumentally stupid.”

“I wish I had better control of myself,” he said, calling his behavior “less like a citizen and more like an animal.”

McCaughey pinned Hodges in a Capitol doorway for more than two minutes while another rioter ripped off the officer’s gas mask, stole his baton and struck him with it. It became a symbol of the barbaric violence that unfolded in the Capitol’s lower West Terrace tunnel, famous before that day as the corridor through which presidents-elect emerge to take their oath of office.

McCaughey was at the “vanguard” of that violent section of the mob, McFadden noted, and arrived there only after spending 20 minutes taunting police before their line collapsed and they were forced to retreat into the tunnel. McCaughey became “a poster child of all that was dangerous and appalling” about Jan. 6, McFadden said.

McFadden found McCaughey guilty in September after a bench trial on three charges of assaulting or impeding police officers, obstructing Congress’ proceedings and participating in a civil disorder, among several other charges. He was tried alongside two other defendants who were nearby in the tunnel.

Despite the extraordinary aspects of McCaughey’s case, in some ways he cut a familiar profile for Jan. 6 defendants: He had no prior criminal record and was seen as a positive member of his Connecticut community prior to the 2020 election. Afterward, amid Trump’s false claims about the results, McCaugehy traveled down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, many amplified by Fox News and other Trump-aligned media outlets.

In McCaughey’s case, there was also the role of his father, whom family members described as a pernicious influence on him — encouraging his beliefs that the election was stolen.

McCaughey’s father accompanied his son to Washington but became separated from him before the assaults, McCaughey’s defense attorney, Dennis Boyle, said.

Hodges also addressed McFadden prior to sentencing, describing the daily trauma he still experiences as a result of the assaults he suffered on Jan. 6. He urged McFadden to reject claims by McCaughey and others of being simply “caught up in the moment.” But he also described McCaughey as a “foot soldier” in a larger effort by those seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

McCaughey’s sentence mirrors two handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to rioters who assaulted D.C. Police officer Michael Fanone. Both men — Albuquerque Head and Kyle Young — were sentenced to just over seven years in prison for their crimes, which were also committed by the lower West Terrace tunnel. It also matches the sentence of Guy Reffitt, a Texas militia member who carried a gun at the Capitol and engaged in a lengthy standoff with police that helped rioters amass at the foot of the building.

The lengthiest Jan. 6 sentence to date belongs to Thomas Webster, a former NYPD cop who was convicted by a jury of a brutal assault against a police officer defending the line at the Capitol. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Webster to 10 years in prison, a steep sentence but one that fell more than 90 months shy of the Justice Department’s recommendation.


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