Trump 'tricked' me: Michigan man tries, but fails, to avoid prison in Jan. 6 attack
Anthony Puma admitted to breaking into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, through a broken window, videotaping the melee on his GoPro camera and posting it to Facebook — but says President Donald Trump "tricked" him into rebelling that day — and he therefore shouldn't go to prison for it.
A judge disagreed.
Puma, a 50-year-old husband and father who now says he regrets his actions and has "disavowed" his support for Trump, will be in a federal prison for nine months for participating in the violent attack that sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Puma had asked to be spared a prison sentence, but prosecutors argued he belonged behind bars for his actions.
'If I could go back in time, I would have stayed home'
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman sentenced Puma to nine months in prison, and ordered him to pay a $500 fine and $2,000 in restitution. Prosecutors were pushing for 15-21 months, noting Puma had cooperated with the FBI and pleaded guilty.
Puma, though, was hoping to serve his punishment at home and avoid a fine.
"I truly regret my actions. If I could go back in time, I would have stayed home with my wife," Puma wrote in a letter to the judge before his sentencing. "I have no excuse for my actions and I throw myself at the mercy of the court hoping for leniency."
According to court records, Puma blamed Trump for his actions that day.
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"Mr. Puma deeply regrets his actions. ... He acknowledged that he was encouraged by the former President Trump and has disavowed himself from any dangerous propaganda that led him to commit a crime. While this does not excuse his actions, Mr. Puma genuinely feels tricked by the former president who he trusted would not steer him down an illegal path," Puma's lawyer previously argued in court documents. "He now knows he should have never fell for his manipulation strategies."
'We might have to start killing some commie bastards'
Puma's lawyer also argued that Puma had "already suffered" in many ways since the attack, including getting fired from two jobs after word got out about his criminal charges. His lawyer also argued that Puma never destroyed any property, was "never violent" and "was horrified when he realized what he was a part ofthat day."
Prosecutors paint a different picture.
According to court filings by the government, here is what landed Puma in federal court:On Dec. 31, 2020, one week before the attack on the Capitol, Puma laid out his plan in a Facebook post: “On the 6th when we are all there in the capital [sic] and he [former President Trump] is givin [sic] his second term the people will see. Then you never know we might have to start killing some commie bastards. #stopthesteal.”
On Jan. 5, 2021, Puma again took to Facebook to reiterate his plan, this time in a message to a friend: “Tomorrow is the big day. Rig for Red. War is coming.”
Later that evening, after arriving in Washington, D.C., Puma posted in a Facebook comment, “What time do we storm the House of Representatives?”
An hour later, Puma answered his own question, “Hopefully we are storming the House of Representatives tomorrow at 1:00pm.”
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Smoking pot in a senator's office
On Jan. 6, prosecutors said, Puma made good on his plan: He strapped a GoPro camera to his head, pushed the record button and marched from his hotel near Freedom Plaza to the Capitol, where he entered a restricted area, moved through other rioters, scaled a wall, made his way to the Senate wing door and entered the Capitol through a busted window.
Once inside, prosecutors said, Puma walked around the building and into the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, where he asked if he could join other rioters in smoking pot.
After he left the Capitol, Puma posted a video on Facebook and boasted: “We got tear gassed. Now we just tried storming it again and we got pepper sprayed.”
Puma remained on Capitol grounds until nighttime, as officers, in Puma’s words to the FBI, “kept pushing us further and further back.”
Four days later, Puma posted anonymous warning to a friend on Facebook: “Watch what is to come in the next two weeks. It will shock the world.”
On Aug. 30, 2022, Puma pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, the most serious charge in the indictment.
Contact Tresa Baldas: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Trump 'tricked' me: Michigan man going to prison in Jan. 6 attack