Peter Schwartz, a 49-year-old welder from Kentucky, has been sentenced to a record-setting 14 years in prison for attacking police officers with pepper spray and a chair during the January 6th Capitol riot. Schwartz’s prison sentence is the longest so far among hundreds of Capitol riot cases, and it was handed down by the same judge who sentenced the previous longest sentence of 10 years to a retired New York Police Department officer who assaulted a police officer outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of 24 years and 6 months for Schwartz, but US District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced him to 14 years and two months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. During the hearing, Mehta called Schwartz a “soldier against democracy” who participated in “the kind of mayhem, chaos that had never been seen in the country’s history.”
Schwartz and his then-wife, Shelly Stallings, joined other rioters in overwhelming a line of police officers on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, where he threw a folding chair at officers and sprayed them with pepper spray. Schwartz also coordinated with two other rioters to spray an orange liquid toward officers clashing with the mob. Before leaving, Schwartz joined a “heave ho” push against police in the tunnel. Stallings pleaded guilty last year to riot-related charges and was sentenced last month to two years of incarceration.
Schwartz’s attorneys had requested a prison sentence of four years and six months, claiming that his actions on Jan. 6 were motivated by a “misunderstanding” about the 2020 presidential election. They argued that Schwartz had been influenced by the baseless conspiracy theories that former President Donald Trump and his allies spread about the election being stolen from the Republican incumbent. However, prosecutors said Schwartz had shown no remorse and had bragged about his participation in the riot.
Schwartz’s criminal record includes 38 prior convictions since 1991, several of which involved assaulting or threatening officers or other authority figures. He was on probation when he joined the Jan. 6 riot.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot, and nearly 500 of them have been sentenced, with over half receiving terms of imprisonment. More than 100 police officers were injured during the riot, and the damage caused to the Capitol was estimated to be in the millions of dollars.