A truck driver who assaulted a police officer with a flagpole at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced on Monday to 52 months in federal prison.
The attack by the driver, Peter Stager, produced one of the most disturbing images to emerge from the Capitol attack. Mr. Stager, 44, of Conway, Ark., was captured on video beating the officer, Blake Miller, with the flagpole in a fit of rage as Officer Miller lay facedown in a mob of other rioters with “no means of defending himself,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.
Mr. Stager was one of nine men charged with assaulting Officer Miller and two of his colleagues, Officers Carter Moore and Andrew Wayte, in a 90-second spree of violence that unfolded on the steps outside a tunnel at the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol. Officers who fell victim to attacks in a tunnel on the terrace and on the steps there have repeatedly likened the violence to the hand-to-hand combat of a medieval battle.
After assaulting Officer Miller, prosecutors say, Mr. Stager was caught on video pointing at the Capitol, and declaring: “Everybody in there is a disgrace. That entire building is filled with treasonous traitors. Death is the only remedy for what’s in that building.”
He went on to say: “Every single one of those Capitol law enforcement officers, death is the remedy. That is the only remedy they get.”
In court papers filed before the sentencing in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Stager’s lawyers told Judge Rudolph Contreras that their client had, like many Jan. 6 defendants, experienced a traumatic childhood. During his early years, the lawyers wrote, Mr. Stager was homeless, sleeping under benches in California and stealing food from stores and dumpsters.
After Mr. Stager’s mother abandoned him and his siblings, when he was around the age of 6, he ended up in foster care, the lawyers said.
The lawyers told Judge Contreras that Mr. Stager was in Washington on Jan. 6 only because of a scheduling conflict with the dispatch service of his trucking company. After delivering a load of produce to a destination near Washington, the lawyers wrote, he chose not to drive back to Arkansas with an empty truck, realizing he would not make any money and would have to pay for fuel.
Instead, the lawyers said, Mr. Stager “decided to make the most of the situation” and attend President Donald J. Trump’s rally on the Ellipse in Washington on the morning of Jan. 6.
“This decision is one that Mr. Stager will regret for the rest of his life,” the lawyers wrote.
As the crowd moved from Mr. Trump’s speech near the White House to the Capitol and grew increasingly violent, “Mr. Stager’s emotional state was in turmoil,” his lawyers wrote. Ultimately, “seeing red,” they said, he picked up a flagpole lying on the ground and went after Officer Miller.
Mr. Stager apologized to the officer in a letter submitted with his lawyer’s filing, saying that he did not “have hatred toward law enforcement, let alone for anyone.”
Three of Mr. Stager’s co-defendants — Justin Jersey, Logan Barnhart and Mason Courson — have also been sentenced on assault charges. Each of them was given a prison term of between three and five years, a relatively modest penalty for cases involving attacks on the police.
Other rioters sentenced for assaulting officers have received some of the stiffest penalties of any of the more than 1,000 people charged in connection with the Capitol attack.
A Pennsylvania welder who attacked officers with a chair and then with chemical spray was sentenced in May to more than 14 years in prison. The next month, a California man was given more than 12 years in prison for twice driving a Taser into the neck of Officer Michael Fanone.