An Alabama man was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly two years in prison for storming the U.S. Capitol and invading the Senate floor with a knife on his hip and a gaping wound on his face.
A police officer shot Joshua Matthew Black in his left cheek with a crowd-control munition outside the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. The bloody hole in his face didn't stop Black from occupying the Senate with other rioters after lawmakers evacuated the chamber.
“Black was a notorious offender during the attack on the Capitol,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing. “The nation was shocked and appalled at the events of January 6, and perhaps no other incident sparked as much as outrage and distress as Black and other rioters’ occupation of the Senate Chamber.”
Prosecutors had recommended a five-year prison sentence for Black, 47, of Leeds, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Black to 22 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release, according to court records.
Black didn't testify before the judge convicted him in January of five charges, including three felonies, after hearing trial testimony without a jury. Jackson also acquitted him of one count, obstructing a congressional proceeding.
Black joined the mob that disrupted the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory. But the judge concluded that prosecutors didn't prove Black knowingly intended to obstruct or impede the proceedings.
Defense attorney Clark Fleckinger said Black, an evangelical Christian, was motivated by his religious beliefs. Black believed God directed him to go to Washington so he could “plead the blood of Jesus” on the Senate floor “to foster Congressional atonement for what he perceived to be the transgressions of (a) corrupt Democratic Party and Republican Party," Fleckinger wrote in a court filing.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related crimes. Roughly 500 of them have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to over 14 years. Nineteen have received prison sentences of five years or longer, according to an Associated Press review of court records.
Black, who runs a lawn-mowing business, traveled alone to Washington, D.C., to attend then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. He joined the crowd walking to the Capitol before Trump finished his speech.
Black, armed with a concealed knife, was the first rioter to breach the barricade at the Lower West Terrace, according to prosecutors.
“This brazen act no doubt encouraged other rioters, who soon after overran the entire Lower West Terrace,” they wrote.
Black then joined the mob on the West Plaza, where police shot him with a “less-than-lethal” munition, prosecutors said.
“Rioters near Black became enraged that he was shot, and they harassed and assaulted officers,” they wrote.
After entering the Capitol through the East Rotunda doors, he breached the Senate chamber and remained inside for over 20 minutes. Black rummaged through a desk assigned to Sen. Ted Cruz and posed for photos on the Senate dais. Before leaving, he joined other rioters in a “raucous demonstration styled as a prayer" led by Jacob Chansley, the self-styled “QAnon Shaman," prosecutors said.
Black later told the FBI that he had a hunting knife on his hip — in a sheath beneath his coat — while inside the Senate chamber. FBI agents found the knife at Black's home when they arrested him on Jan. 14, 2021.
He was jailed in Washington after his arrest and remained detained until a judge ordered his release on April 24, 2021. He'll get credit for the jail time that he already served.