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Ex-State Department aide sentenced to nearly 6 years in Capitol riot attacks

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, U.S. Capitol Police push back rioters trying to enter the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Jose Luis Magana
/
AP
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, U.S. Capitol Police push back rioters trying to enter the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps veteran who served as a politically appointed State Department official in former President Donald Trump's administration was sentenced on Friday to nearly six years in prison for attacking police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Federico Klein joined other Trump supporters in one of the most violent episodes of the Jan. 6 siege — a mob's fight with outnumbered police for control of a tunnel entrance on the Capitol's Lower West Terrace. Klein repeatedly assaulted officers, urged other rioters to join the fray and tried to stop police from shutting entrance doors, according to federal prosecutors.

Klein "waged a relentless siege on police officers" as he tried to enter the Capitol and stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's electoral victory over Trump, prosecutors said in a court filing.

Klein, who didn't testify at his trial, declined to address the court before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced him to five years and 10 months in prison.

"Your actions on January 6th were shocking and egregious," the judge told Klein.

McFadden also ordered Klein to pay a $3,000 fine and $2,000 in restitution. He will report to prison at a date to be determined.

Klein worked in the State Department's office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs from 2017 until he resigned from that position on Jan. 19, 2021, a day before Biden's inauguration.

Prosecutors said Klein's participation in the riot was likely motivated by a desire to keep his job as a presidential appointee.

"As an employee of the federal government, Klein was endowed with the trust of the American people and to uphold the law. He violated that trust on January 6 when he attacked the very country for which he was paid to work," prosecutors wrote.

Defense attorney Stanley Woodward has accused prosecutors of exaggerating Klein's role in the riot due to his political connection to the Trump administration.

"Accordingly, Mr. Klein should be sentenced for his actual role in the events of the day, and not the more egregious conduct of others with which the government would have Mr. Klein be found guilty by association," Woodward wrote.

Prosecutors had recommended a 10-year prison sentence for Klein, an Alexandria, Virginia, resident who was 42 years old at the time of the riot. Klein was arrested in March 2021.

In July 2023, McFadden heard trial testimony without a jury before he convicted Klein and a co-defendant, Steven Cappuccio, of assault charges and other Capitol riot-related offenses.

Klein and Cappuccio were among nine defendants charged in a 53-count indictment. The judge convicted Klein of 12 counts, including six assault charges.

Also on Friday, McFadden sentenced Cappuccio, 53, of Universal City, Texas, to seven years and one month in prison, according to a Justice Department news release. Prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of 10 years and one month for Cappuccio, who was arrested at his home in August 2021.

Klein and Cappuccio separately attended Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6 before marching to the Capitol. Klein was in the first wave of rioters to enter the tunnel, according to prosecutors. They said he pushed hard against officers, telling them, "You can't stop this!"

Klein also wedged a stolen police riot shield between two doors, preventing officers from closing them, prosecutors said. Video captured Klein encouraging other rioters to attack police, repeatedly yelling, "We need fresh people!"

McFadden told Klein on Friday that his conduct "prolonged the mayhem" in the tunnel.

"You were front and center in that chaos," the judge said.

Cappuccio yelled, "Storming the castle, boys!" and chanted, "Fight for Trump!" and "Our house!" as he reached the Lower West Terrace. In the tunnel, he joined other rioters in pushing against the police line, prosecutors said.

When another rioter pinned Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges against a door, Cappuccio ripped a gas mask off the officer's face and dislodged his helmet, prosecutors said.

Klein, who served in the Marine Corps for roughly nine years, was deployed to Iraq as a combat engineer in 2005. In January 2017, he went to work for the State Department as a desk officer specializing in the South American region.

Klein also worked for Trump's 2016 campaign and took time off from work after the 2020 presidential election and traveled to Nevada to help investigate the baseless claims of voter fraud promoted by Trump and his allies, prosecutors said.

Nearly 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial. Approximately 700 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press