Jan. 6 rioter with 'I heart TRUMP' hat and a Confederate flag gets prison for assaults on officers

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WASHINGTON — A Jan. 6 defendant who took a Confederate flag to the Capitol and wore an "I ❤️ TRUMP" beanie as he assaulted police officers with chemical spray, partially blinding two of them for hours, was sentenced to 30 months in prison Monday.

Isreal Easterday, 23, was arrested in Florida in December 2022 and found guilty in October on several counts, including felony charges of civil disorder and assaulting officers.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge James E. Boasberg sentenced Easterday to 30 months in prison, as well as 500 hours of community service, along with $2,000 in restitution.

The government sought 151 months — or more than 12.5 years — in federal prison, saying his "felonious conduct" was "part of a massive riot that almost succeeded in preventing the certification vote from being carried out, frustrating the peaceful transition of Presidential power, and throwing the United States into a Constitutional crisis."

Prosecutors called the Confederate battle flag — which Easterday took up to the eastern doors of the U.S. Capitol where Abraham Lincoln's body passed through after his assassination in 1865 — "an established symbol of racism" as well as "a symbol of treason, defiance of the law, and insurrection."

Easterday's defense lawyers said he came to Washington after his uncle "invited him to tag along with a group of fellow Trump supporters." They said that Easterday was home-schooled and that "everything he knew was filtered through the lens of his parents" when he went to the Capitol. Easterday, they said, "plainly did not fully understand what the Confederate flag signified" and even Googled “what does the rebel flag represent” on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021.

Prosecutors said that Easterday "was part of the mob that first breached the police line on the East side of the Capitol" and that he waved his Confederate flag when he "entered the restricted area, pushed his way through the mob, and climbed up to the top landing" outside the east rotunda doors.

"There, he acquired a can of pepper spray and used it to assault U.S. Capitol Police ('USCP') Officer Joshua Pollitt, who was guarding the East Rotunda Doors, by spraying the chemical irritant directly into Officer Pollitt’s face from just an arm’s length away. Officer Pollitt collapsed moments after Easterday sprayed him, and experienced excruciating pain and partial blindness for hours," prosecutors wrote. "After this attack, Easterday acquired a second can of pepper spray from another rioter and used it to assault a different group of USCP officers guarding the East Rotunda Doors, striking USCP Officer Miguel Acevedo, and causing him to experience excruciating pain and partial blindness for hours, just like Officer Pollitt."

Easterday then breached the building and pulled other rioters inside, prosecutors said. The next day, "in an effort to hide evidence of his guilt, Easterday wiped photographs, posts, and communications from his Facebook account," they said.

Over 1,387 Capitol attack defendants have been charged, and prosecutors have secured more than 984 convictions. While hundreds of low-level Jan. 6 rioters have received probationary sentences, more than 520 have been sentenced to periods of incarceration ranging from a few days behind bars to 22 years in federal prison. Only about 15 defendants are in pretrial custody, meaning they haven't been convicted of crimes but judges determined they are either threats to the community or risks of flight.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com