WASHINGTON — A Jan. 6 defendant who stormed the Capitol and assaulted police with a flagpole while he was out on bail on a charge of first-degree attempted murder was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison Tuesday.
Matthew Beddingfield, 22, of North Carolina, had pleaded guilty this year to a felony count of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers using a deadly or dangerous weapon during the Capitol attack.
Beddingfield was first identified back in early 2021 by online "Sedition Hunters" who have identified Jan. 6 participants, including hundreds who have not been arrested. A facial recognition search of photos of Beddingfield at the Capitol turned up stories about his arrest in connection with the shooting of a Hispanic teenager in a Walmart parking lot in December 2019. The sleuths confirmed the identification with the help of posts from his father's Facebook page.
After online sleuths identified Beddingfield, but before he was arrested, he took an Alford plea on one count of assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon in the attempted murder case and was sentenced to probation. Beddingfield’s team said he was robbed before he shot the teenager. In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges prosecutors have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction without formally admitting guilt.
Beddingfield was arrested for participating in the Capitol riot in February 2022 and was later released on strict conditions: He had to live with his grandfather, he couldn't have access to social media, and he couldn't have a door on his bedroom.
At his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Murphy called Beddingfield's actions "atrocious" and said he "continued seeking out violence" on Jan. 6, 2021. "He was there for the violence, and he found it again and again," Murphy said.
While the government said Beddingfield praised Adolf Hitler, gave a Nazi salute during the Capitol attack and appeared "to harbor deep resentment towards the Black, Hispanic, Native American, and LGBTQ+ communities while glorifying white supremacist figures, beliefs, language, and ideologies," U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Tuesday that the 38-month prison sentence he imposed was a reflection of Beddingfield's conduct on Jan. 6 and that he did not factor in Beddingfield's beliefs.
Beddingfield's attorney, Leza Lee Driscoll, presented a photo of Beddingfield with a Black person she identified as a longtime friend, as well as photos of Beddingfield with co-workers, and wrote in a slide that Beddingfield "lives a life of diversity and inclusion." She said Beddingfield would be a "very vulnerable inmate" because of his stature and age. She also argued that Beddingfield had an "adolescent brain" and was not an adult from a psychiatric perspective.
"He seems to have gotten caught up in the crowd," Driscoll said, noting that many of the other rioters were much older and that Beddingfield did not come prepared for battle on Jan. 6, as others had.
Beddingfield told the judge that he came to Washington in support of President Donald Trump because he "felt our election had been stolen." He apologized for his behavior on Jan. 6 and said that he had allowed his emotions to override his decision-making and that he would learn from his mistakes.
"I was caught up," Beddingfield said. He said he hoped it would be the last time he appeared before a judge.
Nichols said there was somewhat of a risk that Beddingfield could re-offend and that it was important that he be punished in a way that was consistent with other rioters. Beddingfield had been banned from communicating with his father — who, as Nichols noted, was also on the grounds of the Capitol but has not been charged — but Nichols said he could now meet with his father once a week for up to four hours until he reports to the Bureau of Prisons to begin his sentence.
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the Capitol, and more than 300 have been sentenced to periods of incarceration.