Former Trump State Department official convicted for attacking police during Capitol riot
Jul 20, 2023, 2:41 PM
(Justice Department via AP)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who worked as a politically appointed State Department official in former President Donald Trump’s administration was convicted Thursday of charges that he attacked police officers during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
U.S. District Judge Judge Trevor McFadden heard testimony without a jury before he convicted the former official, riot at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
Klein and Cappuccio were among nine co-defendants charged with crimes related to one of the most violent and pivotal episodes of the Jan. 6 siege: brutal waves of hand-to-hand combat between rioters and police officers in a tunnel leading to a Capitol entrance on the Lower West Terrace.
Klein and Cappuccio converged on the tunnel as outnumbered police officers struggled for hours to hold back the mob of rioters, prosecutors said in a court filing.
McFadden convicted Klein of 12 counts, including six charging him with assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers. Klein is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 3.
The judge is scheduled to sentence Cappuccio on Oct. 19. McFadden convicted him of assault charges but acquitted him of two counts, including a felony charge that he obstructed the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. But, McFadden convicted Klein of the same obstruction charge.
The judge said the tunnel was the scene of “shocking violence and hostility” against police.
“No police officer should have had to endure those attacks without provocation,” McFadden said.
McFadden allowed Klein to remain free under house arrest until his sentencing but ordered Cappuccio to be jailed immediately after the verdict. Klein shook Cappuccio’s hand in the courtroom before a deputy marshal handcuffed him.
Klein, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, had a Top Secret security clearance and had been working since 2017 in the State Department’s office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs. He resigned from that position on Jan. 19, 2021, a day before President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Klein, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, was in the first wave of rioters to enter the tunnel, according to prosecutors. They said Klein pushed hard against officers, telling them, “You can’t stop this!” and repeatedly drove his shoulder into an officer who tried to push him back with his baton.
Klein also wedged a stolen police riot shield between two doors, preventing officers from closing them, prosecutors said.
“With the shield as a wedge, Klein and other rioters pried the doors open again and continued their attacks on the police in the tunnel, which lasted for more than two more hours,” prosecutors wrote.
Video captured Klein exhorting other rioters to attack police, repeatedly yelling, “We need fresh people!”
Cappuccio yelled, “Storming the castle, boys!” and chanted, “Fight for Trump!” and “Our house!” as he reached the Lower West Terrace. In the tunnel, he joined other rioters in pushing against the police line, prosecutors said.
“All the while, Cappuccio continued to hold his phone in the air, recording the violence between the rioters and the police line,” they wrote.
When another rioter pinned Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges against a door, Cappuccio ripped a gas mask off the officer’s face and dislodged his helmet, prosecutors said.
“Cappuccio then took Officer Hodges’ riot baton out of his hands and used the baton to strike Officer Hodges in the face,” they wrote. “Throughout this vicious assault, Officer Hodges screamed and pleaded for help.”
Cappuccio, also a military veteran, drove from Texas to Washington, D.C. to attend Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. He was arrested at his home in Universal City, Texas, in August 2021.
Klein, a native of Washington region who also worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign, was arrested in March 2021.
Klein’s lawyer had sought a separate trial for him, arguing that his co-defendants were accused of engaging in “far more threatening and intentional conduct” than Klein.
“Mr. Klein is not alleged to have injured anyone, and the government concedes his ‘assault’ of a law enforcement officer amounts to his having been in possession of a riot shield that also came into contact with a law enforcement officer,” defense attorney Stanley Woodward wrote in a March 2022 court filing.
Another co-defendant, Christopher Quaglin, was scheduled to be tried with Klein and Cappuccio. Earlier this month, however, McFadden convicted Quaglin, 37, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, of 14 riot-related crimes. Quaglin had a “stipulated bench trial,” which means the judge decided the case without a jury based on facts agreed upon by both sides. McFadden is scheduled to sentence Quaglin on Sept. 26.
More than 100 police officers were injured during the riot. More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack. Approximately 100 of them have been convicted by juries or judges. Only two have been acquitted of all charges after trials. Over 600 others have pleaded guilty.