A Capitol rioter says he's 'sincerely sorry' to Americans who 'absolutely hate my guts'

·3 min read
Brandon straka capitol riot
A composite image showing Straka in 2018 (R) and a screenshot sent to the FBI, allegedly showing him at the Capitol riot.FBI / Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
  • Brandon Straka apologized to "the people of America," Capitol police and members of Congress.

  • The former hairstylist spoke at a pro-Trump rally the day before the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

  • A judge sentenced him to 3 years of probation and 3 months of home confinement.

Brandon Straka built a wide following on social media as a pro-Trump influencer, with a style of speaking "from the heart and off the cuff," he said Monday.

But as he faced sentencing on a disorderly conduct charge stemming from the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, he came to court with prepared remarks — and a broad apology before being sentenced to three years of probation and three months of home confinement.

"I am sincerely sorry to all of the people of America, even the ones who absolutely hate my guts and hated me long before January 6. I'm sorry that I was present in any way at an event that led anybody to feel afraid, that brought shame and embarrassment on our country, and that served absolutely no purpose other than to further tear away at the already heartbreaking divide in this country," Straka said.

"I'm deeply sorry and ashamed for being present at an event that sent members of Congress running in fear," he added. "I can sincerely say I would never intend for such a thing to happen, but nonetheless it did."

A former New York City hairstylist, Straka gained some measure of prominence in MAGA circles after founding the "Walk Away" movement, which seeks to lure liberals from the Democratic Party. The day before January 6, he spoke at a pro-Trump rally in Washington, DC.

Federal prosecutors had sought a sentence of four months of home confinement for Straka, who admitted as part of his October guilty plea to encouraging the pro-Trump mob to storm the Capitol and wrest away a shield from a police officer. In video footage he recorded, Straka could be heard yelling "go, go, go" as the mob advanced into the Capitol, and "take it, take it," as rioters pulled a shield away from an officer.

At his sentencing, Judge Dabney Friedrich credited Straka for his early guilty plea and cooperation with the January 6 investigation. In court filings, the Justice Department said Straka submitted to three interviews between early 2021 and January 2022.

Straka's defense lawyer said that, in one interview, the Justice Department posed questions about whether there was an "organized conspiracy" involving Trump and his inner circle.

"During the interviews the government was focused on establishing an organized conspiracy between defendant, President Donald J. Trump, and allies of the former president, to disrupt the Joint Session of Congress on January 6," wrote Straka's defense lawyer, Bilal Essayli.

The lawyer added that Straka had "answered all questions truthfully and denied the existence of any such plot."

On Monday, Essayli argued that Straka was unaware of the magnitude of the violence as it unfolded, drawing pushback from Friedrich. The judge at one point noted that Straka was close to the police officer whose shield was taken by the angry mob.

Straka directed an apology directly to that officer on Monday.

"I want to apologize to all members of the Capitol Police whose safety was put in danger by the unruly mob," he said, "in particular the police officer whose shield was seen in my video being grabbed by members of the crowd."

"No protest should ever get out of hand to the point of becoming a riot," he added. "And no police officers should ever have to feel that their life or their safety is in jeopardy while trying to keep the peace at a public demonstration."

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