Man with megaphone who led Capitol rioters gets more than seven years in prison

A Washington state man who used a megaphone to orchestrate a mob’s attack on police officers guarding the US Capitol was sentenced on Wednesday to more than seven years in prison.

Royce Lamberth, the US district judge, said videos captured Taylor James Johnatakis playing a leadership role during the January 6 riot.

Johnatakis led other rioters on a charge against a police line, “barked commands” over his megaphone and shouted step-by-step directions for overpowering officers, the judge said.

“In any angry mob, there are leaders and there are followers. Mr Johnatakis was a leader. He knew what he was doing that day,” the judge said before sentencing him to seven years and three months behind bars.

Johnatakis, who represented himself, with an attorney on standby, has repeatedly expressed rhetoric that appears to be inspired by the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement. He asked the judge questions at his sentencing, including: “Does the record reflect that I repent in my sins?”

Lamberth, who referred to some of Johnatakis’ words as “gobbledygook,” said: “I’m not answering questions here.”

Prosecutors recommended a nine-year prison sentence for Johnatakis, a self-employed installer of septic systems.

“Johnatakis was not just any rioter; he led, organized, and encouraged the assault of officers at the US Capitol on January 6,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

A jury convicted him of felony charges after a trial last year in Washington DC.

Johnatakis, 40, of Kingston, Washington, had a megaphone strapped to his back when he marched to the Capitol from Donald Trump’s so-called Stop the Steal rally near the White House on January 6, when he was claiming not to have lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

“It’s over,” he shouted at the crowd of Trump supporters. “Michael Pence has voted against the president. We are down to the nuclear option.”

Johnatakis was one of the first to chase a group of police officers who were retreating up stairs outside the Capitol. He shouted and gestured for other rioters to prepare to attack.

Johnatakis shouted “Go!” before he and others shoved a metal barricade into a line of police officers. He also grabbed an officer’s arm.

“The crime is complete,” Johnatakis posted on social media several hours after he left the Capitol. He was arrested in February 2021. Jurors convicted him last November of seven counts, including obstruction of the January 6 joint session of Congress that belatedly certified Joe Biden’s electoral victory. The jury also convicted him of assault and civil disorder charges.

Approximately 1,350 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds getting terms of imprisonment ranging from several days to 22 years.

The Guardian

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