Lebanon man guilty of assaulting D.C. officers on Jan. 6

Sep. 27—A Lebanon man who participated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol was found guilty Tuesday of assaulting at least three officers who were guarding the building, as well as trying to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras found Kyle Fitzsimons, 39, guilty on all 11 charges he faced in the Washington, D.C., court, including assaulting Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Metropolitan Police Detective Phuson Nguyen and Metropolitan Police Officer Sarah Beaver.

Contreras found Fitzsimons guilty of seven felonies in all, including one count of obstruction of an official proceeding; four counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers, including two involving a dangerous weapon or bodily injury; one count of interfering with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder, and one count of engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds.

He also was found guilty of four misdemeanors, including entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building or grounds; and committing an act of violence in the Capitol Building or grounds.

The felony charges carry a maximum sentence of 91 years in prison. The misdemeanors have a maximum of three years in prison. Fitzsimons will be sentenced on Feb. 17.

Fitzsimons was one of thousands who arrived in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, to oppose the certification of the 2020 presidential election. He is among hundreds of people facing charges, and the first from Maine to go to trial, for the violence that occurred as protesters broke past police barriers and illegally entered the Capitol.

Fitzsimons' defense attorney, public defender Natasha Taylor-Smith, told the court in August that Fitzsimons believed he was going to Washington to support a constitutional and legal process, in which elected members of Congress could have voted against certifying the presidential vote. She said Fitzsimons was following information from "mainstream" sources — news outlets and federal and state officials who were speaking about alleged "irregularities" in the electoral results.

"He was still being told by these same mainstream individuals, and by the chief executive officer of this nation, that there was a plan," Taylor-Smith said in August. "That plan did not include the military. It did not include violence or weapons of any kind. All that needed to happen was for the state legislatures to come together on Jan. 6 and object to the certification."

The verdict was delivered hours before jury selection was scheduled to begin in the sedition trial against Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, the extremist group that federal authorities say spent weeks plotting to violently stop Joe Biden from taking office.

Prosecutors presented hours of video and still images to support the officers' testimony during Fitzsimons' four-day trial in mid-August.

Nguyen testified during the trial that he was guarding the lower west terrace entrance to the Capitol from hundreds of rioters when he said Fitzsimons pulled off his gas mask so another demonstrator could aim what appeared to be bear spray at Nguyen's face. He said Fitzsimons released the mask, and when it snapped back, Nguyen dropped to the ground, choking and burning.

Prosecutors asked the judge to enhance the charges relating to the attack on Nguyen, but Contreras said because of where Fitzsimons was standing at the time, there wasn't enough evidence to show that he was responsible for dislodging Nguyen's mask in a way that caused injury.

"This is not to say that Sgt. Nguyen wasn't credible," Contreras said, suggesting the day was so chaotic that Nguyen could've mistaken Fitzsimons for another demonstrator. "I regret that Sgt. Nguyen went through that day."

Beaver, who was posted outside that same terrace entrance, said she had already been vomited on and hit by a can of bear spray when she was hit in the helmet by an unstrung bow. Prosecutors said it was the same bow that Fitzsimons brought to Washington from Maine, according to photos taken before the violence and comments he made during a local government meeting afterward.

Gonell told the court that Fitzsimons grabbed his shield while he was trying to help another officer who had fallen. Gonell said Fitzsimons pulled his shield so hard that it injured his shoulder and he later needed surgery.

Among the hundreds of Jan. 6 participants who are facing criminal charges for their roles that day, a handful arrived from Maine.

Glen Mitchell Simon from Minot was sentenced to eight months in August, months after pleading guilty to a charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct for using a metal bicycle rack outside the entrance to the Capitol to push away officers who were trying to prevent the mob from entering.

Nicholas Hendrix, a Gorham resident and U.S. veteran, pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor, in late June.

Jefferson resident Joshua Colgan is awaiting trial after he pleaded not guilty in July to four misdemeanor charges.

Fitzsimons had been living in Lebanon with his wife and young daughter for about three years before his arrest in February 2021. He worked as a freelance butcher for small farms throughout southern Maine, according to court documents. A day after he helped storm the U.S. Capitol, Fitzsimons called into a local government meeting and said he went to D.C. wearing his butcher's jacket because "it was going to be the last day of the Republic" and he wanted to "live it like I live every day."

Fitzsimons was born in Newburgh, New York, and his father worked for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, according to court documents. He grew up around other children whose families were working at West Point. After high school, he got a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Fitzsimons is one of several rioters facing charges who have raised money for their defense, despite being assigned a public defense attorney in May 2021, after getting rid of his private attorney. Prosecutors announced this month that they planned to seize some of the $20,000 they said Fitzsimons has raised illegally.

Toward the end of Fitzsimons' verdict hearing Tuesday, Contreras thanked Taylor-Smith for representing Fitzsimons. The judge said that while watching crises unfold in other countries where democracies are under attack, including Ukraine, he realizes not everyone facing charges related to those attacks will be ensured legal representation, as people are in the United States.

"This country has a lot of problems, but that's a remarkable part of this system," Contreras said.