Conservative scion Brent Bozell IV sentenced to nearly 4 years in Jan. 6 case

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WASHINGTON — A man whose family members were key architects of the American conservative movement was sentenced Friday to three years and nine months in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which included smashing windows that allowed the mob to storm into the building during the initial breach.

Federal prosecutors sought more than 11 years in prison and a terrorism enhancement for Brent Bozell IV, the son of Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell III and grandson of Joe McCarthy speechwriter Brent Bozell Jr., who was William F. Buckley Jr.'s brother-in-law and ghost-wrote Barry Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative."

But Judge John Bates sentenced Bozell IV to 45 months in prison and $4,727 in restitution Friday. Bates found that the clear language of the terrorism enhancement statute would apply in Bozell's case, saying it's "a little difficult for me to escape" that conclusion. But Bates disagreed with the enormous impact it would have on Bozell's sentence range and seemed uncomfortable with labeling a man with a leadership role in the politically-motivated attack on the U.S. Capitol as a domestic terrorist.

"I’m not sure that label is an appropriate label for the defendant to have to carry with him,” Bates said, noting that while Bozell busted windows that let the mob breach the building and joined the mob as it overtook multiple police lines, his conduct wasn't "meaningfully violent" and he didn't cause any physical harm to officers. Still, he previously found that Bozell was “leaning toward the officers with his head down” and "forcibly" made contact with officers as the mob charged a police line. He also found that Bozell repeatedly lied on the stand about his conduct.

Bates also took the opportunity to indirectly push back on the rhetoric that Republican politicians have been using about Jan. 6 defendants.

“Not for a moment should January 6 rioters be considered true patriots,” Bates, a George W. Bush appointee said. “They’re not political prisoners. They’re not hostages.”

The Jan. 6 rioters are now facing the consequences of their actions based on a fair, unbiased, even application of the law, Bates said.

Brent Bozell IV at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (FBI; U.S. DC for the District of Columbia)
Brent Bozell IV at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (FBI; U.S. DC for the District of Columbia)

Bozell, with his father seated in the court gallery, was apologetic for his actions in court, saying that he had "put a stain" on his family forever. “I don’t recognize the person in those videos,” Bozell said, vowing to spend the rest of his life making sure that what he did on Jan. 6 was not the story of his life.

But Bozell notably did not say that he now realized he was misled about the 2020 election or blame former President Donald Trump's lies for his conduct, as many Jan. 6 defendants have.

Asked by NBC News after his sentencing whether he still believed the 2020 election was "stolen," as Trump falsely claimed in the lead up to the attack, Bozell declined to comment. (In carefully worded language, Bozell's defense sentencing memo says only that Bozell "accepts that the President of the United States is Joe Biden," which is the same tactic that Republican politicians have used to avoid discussing discussing their beliefs about the 2020 election in detail.)

On Jan. 6, 2021, Bozell joined the pro-Trump mob as it breached the police line and smashed windows during the initial breach of the Capitol. He was side by side with members of the far-right Proud Boys, as well as an anti-abortion rights advocate accused of plotting to kill FBI employees who worked on his Jan. 6 case.

Bozell made his way into the Senate gallery and then onto the Senate floor. He also joined the mob during another violent breach of doors off the Capitol rotunda, which allowed other rioters to storm the building.

Prosecutors say Bozell “led the charge” on Jan. 6 because he "believed that the presidential election had been ‘stolen’ and thus planned to respond through violence." They are seeking a terrorism sentencing enhancement — the same one given to five members of the Proud Boys, four of whom were convicted of seditious conspiracy — saying Bozell's actions "displayed a clear intent to stop Congress from certifying the results of the election through the use of both physical force and property destruction," conduct which "is a quintessential example of an intent to influence and retaliate against government conduct through intimidation or coercion and warrants the application of the terrorism enhancement."

Prosecutors also cited Bozell's comments that the "Capitol siege was morally justified" and his references to former Vice President Mike Pence as a "traitor" as evidence of his intention to engage in an act of domestic terrorism.

In a court filing this week, prosecutors said they had secured terrorism sentencing enhancements in a handful of Jan. 6 cases, including against Proud Boys such as Enrique Tarrio, who was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison, the longest sentence in any Jan. 6 case.

Prosecutors also said Bozell "came up with outrageous justifications for his conduct on January 6 that were both inconsistent with the video evidence and implausible" during his trial testimony, which led to his conviction in September on a host of charges, including five felonies.

Bozell was caught with the help of online sleuths, as well as local residents who recognized him because he was wearing a sweatshirt bearing the name of the school his children attended in Pennsylvania.

The prosecution's sentencing memo mentions that Bozell texted his brother to try to get his father to retract his public condemnation of violence after Jan. 6. His defense attorneys wrote that Bozell was part of a family that was “too personally and emotionally ‘invested’ in the final outcome of the 2020 election” and that Bozell is “ashamed that he smashed windows at the U.S. Capitol Building and entered through them.”

Bozell's father wrote a letter in support, saying that he had "remained silent for the past 3 1/2 years" so he wouldn't "tip the apple cart of justice" that he but now believed — especially because of the decision to seek a terrorism sentencing enhancement — that "there is more at play" in his son's case.

"I am not pleading my son’s innocence, only that his punishment match the crime. I am asking the Court to consider my son’s character that is sterling and is being defended by absolutely everyone around him," Bozell III wrote.

Bozell III founded the Parents Television and Media Council in 1995, when his son, now in his mid-40s, was a teenager. The organization targeted shows like "Friends," "Dawson’s Creek" and "Spin City," along with video games like "Mortal Kombat." Bozell III had said during the 2016 presidential campaign that Donald Trump "might be the greatest charlatan of them all," but he pivoted to defending Trump, even writing a 2019 book titled "Unmasked: Big Media's War Against Trump."

Bozell’s grandfather was “convicted of assaulting a police officer with a five-foot wooden cross” after he led an anti-abortion attack on a clinic in Washington, D.C., in 1970, according to his 1997 obituary in The Washington Post.

On Friday, Bozell's attorney Eric Snyder argued that while Bozell "is a lot of things," he is not a terrorist.

“Good people do bad things,” Snyder said. “This is a good person who did a terrible thing.”

Bozell is “a lucky man” who has “had all these advantages,” Synder said, calling him “fortunate.” He said that Bozell was aware that he had “tarnished the name of a good family,” saying the Bozells were also known for their other works outside of politics.

Bozell himself addressed the officers who were present, as well as his family and the judge.  

“I cannot apologize enough,” he said, adding that the “devastating reality” of what he did had an impact not only on him but on his family as well, adding that he was not raised that way.

“I don’t know what happened on that day and I can’t apologize enough,” Bozell said, adding that he had corrected people he encountered who said they supported what he did on Jan. 6.

He apologized to the people of D.C. as well, noting he wishes he could go door-to-door and apologize too. He said he brought a lot of harassment upon his daughter’s school because he wore a school sweatshirt that day, which helped online sleuths track him down.

Not long after his son was sentenced, Bozell III took to the X platform to say that, while he thought Bates was "a good man," that his son's sentencing was "a complete travesty," before bringing up riots that took places in locations that were not the U.S. Capitol during the counting of the electoral college.

"This was a political prosecution because my son, Leo Brent Bozell IV carries his father’s name, and his father is a known conservative leader who is supporting President Trump in 2024," Bozell III wrote. "I love my son and will be more outspoken than ever. The criminal investigation into this corrupt Justice Department is long overdue."

In the more than three years since the Capitol attack, federal prosecutors have charged more than 1,424 defendants and secured more than 1,019 convictions. Of the 884 defendants who have been sentenced, 541 have received periods of incarceration, from a few days behind bars to Tarrio's 22-year prison term.

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