“I just want to do what it takes to be legit,” Pruitt said.
He discussed protective equipment and shelter with other group members. Shortly after the riots, according to the lyrics, his membership was approved.
Pruitt, 40, appeared at three key points in the Capitol on Jan. 6, wearing a “Punisher” tank top, also in the Crypt, where he was photographed swinging a sign across the room and later found face-to-face with police. He is also photographed at the Capitol Visitors Center, where he threw a chair and confronted another group of rioters trying to access the Capitol tunnel system.
Then in the halls of the Capitol, he began to approach Senate Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) as the senator was driven out of the building. Schumer’s team turned him around and had him run in the opposite direction of Pruitt.
Pruitt never attacked officers or made physical contact with personnel. But on Monday, a federal judge sentenced him to 55 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Pruitt pleaded guilty in June to obstructing official proceedings, and federal sentencing guidelines suggested 51 to 63 months in prison, in part because he has a long criminal history, including assaulting police, possessing cocaine and convictions for driving under influence.
DC Proud Boy And Bartender Plead Guilty To Misdemeanor In Capitol Riots
“You acted a little in concert with others,” U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly told Pruitt, “planning to some extent with others. … You entered the building early, you penetrated deep into the building, you You damaged property, you played a part in ramping up the crowd, you were very close to one of our national leaders.”
Pruitt, a father of a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, said he was blacklisted from working in the DC restaurant business. “I am not happy that January 6 has happened,” he told the judge on Monday. “To be honest, I wish I had watched it from a restaurant instead of taking part in it. … Yes, I was wrong and I broke the law, and I apologize for that.”
But Pruitt also said: “I really believed the election was stolen. I still do.”
A member of Schumer’s security team said he is haunted by the near confrontation between the senator and Pruitt.
“I saw Mr. Pruitt approach us with intent to harm the United States Senate Majority Leader,” the special agent, identified by the initials ML, wrote in a victim statement. “It was only due to the advance planning of alternative evacuation procedures and rapid action by our teams that this impending meeting did not result in bloodshed or serious bodily harm.”
“I was within 10 meters of these vicious insurgents,” Schumer said at a hearing in January.
Pruitt worked as a bartender in DC until November 2020, when he was filmed being inducted into the Proud Boys by chairman Enrique Tarrio after a pro-Trump rally. Pruitt later said members of the group had protected him during one of the many violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the former president. However, Pruitt was not a full member and tried to become one after his first meeting with Tarrio, according to texts from his chats with other members.
Defense attorney Robert L. Jenkins emphasized that Pruitt “did not physically assault any law enforcement … did not inflict direct bodily harm on law enforcement officers” and “did not possess or use any weapons.”
Speaking to other local Proud Boys on Jan. 5, 2021, Pruitt suggested he could distract the police while others fought, according to the court report. “Punch if they come first,” he said. “And that’s when we got to work.”
Prosecutors say he filled that role. “More than a year later, many officers remembered him as an instigator,” the prosecutors said in their sentencing memo. His appearance was distinctive: A bodybuilder, Pruitt wore a tactical glove with padded knuckles and a tank top decorated with the skull logo of a comic book vigilante. He threw a plate and a chair into the Capitol.
One officer described Pruitt as “an agitator” who would get close to the police and try to rattle them.
“The defendant did this repeatedly during my interaction and told me that ‘you better stop staring at me,'” the officer recalled in his statement. “When the defendant found that his efforts were unsuccessful, he withdrew into the larger crowd of protesters in search of another uniformed target to provoke.”
In media interviews after the riots, Pruitt said he had no idea the crowds would gather at the Capitol, despite talking about those plans in a local Proud Boys group chat. He also took part in discussions where Proud Boys were told not to wear their traditional colors of black and yellow in order to blend in better with the crowd.
The chat “explicitly contained anti-Semitic and racist memes,” according to court records, with some anti-Jewish comments from Pruitt himself. Jenkins said Pruitt didn’t make or see much of the anti-Semitic or racist posts.
Pruitt did write that he “went for blood” and was excited about violent confrontations.
“My girl (now ex) left me yesterday,” he wrote on January 4 in the group Proud Boys. “Build up frustration ready to come out. Makes me even more dangerous.”
Pruitt was arrested in December 2020, charged with violating a protection order by threatening an ex-girlfriend; he was on probation and provisional release at the time of the Capital riot and was wearing an ankle bracelet.
An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that Pruitt’s membership in the Proud Boys was approved shortly before the January 6, 2021 riots. It was approved afterward. The article has been corrected.