WASHINGTON — A "pissed off" Donald Trump fan was sentenced to 46 months in prison Friday for assaulting law enforcement officers with a Trump flag and joining a mob to use a giant Trump billboard as a battering ram when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The government said that Howard Richardson, a 72-year-old from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, "contributed to the breach of the police line that led directly to the storming of the Capitol doors." Federal prosecutors sought 46 months of incarceration for Richardson, who is the father of a 20-year veteran police officer, according to the government.
“Richardson also wrongly insisted that he carried a ‘Back the Blue’ flag on January 6 and not a Trump flag,” the government said, adding (misspelling “unfazed”): “Apparently unphased by the irony of using a pro-police symbol to attack a police officer, Richardson made this assertion even though the video footage clearly shows his flag is a blue and red ‘Trump’ flag.”
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced Richardson to more than 3.5 years in prison, saying he had downplayed his actions in his plea hearing and misled the FBI about his actions, twice coming up with "excuses" for what he did.
"This is a serious offense," Kollar-Kotelly said, adding that the video made clear that Richardson was "very angry" when he swung his flagpole with the Trump flag at an officer.
"The intent has to be to injure the officer, there's no other reason to do it," Kollar-Kotelly said.
“It was an insurrection, it was not a protest, and certainly not a peaceful one,” she added.
Richardson told the court he was apologetic for his actions.
"I am sorry," Richardson said. "This was not my intention whatsoever." He said he was expecting a party and a "celebration" because he thought that Republicans would stop the certification of Joe Biden's presidential win.
"I lost my temper," Richardson said of assaulting an officer with the flag pole. "Never should have done that. ... There's no excuse for what I did."
The government argued in court that a sentence on the high end of the guidelines was warranted because of Richardson's conduct and background, which included other recent encounters with the police.
“Since the time of Mr. Richardson’s arrest, we learned a great deal more information,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily W. Allen told the court Friday. “He has a pattern in recent years of acting very dangerously.”
“Mr. Richardson was front and center” as the mob assaulted police with the billboard, the prosecutor said.
Richardson’s lawyer emphasized Richardson’s age and the need for his to take care of his business.
“There’s no justification, no excuse,” defense attorney Thomas Egan said Friday.
Egan called Richardson “a stubborn man,” and said it took awhile for him to realize the consequences of his actions but that the judge could “take a chance on Mr. Richardson.”
Richardson said he had been a good citizen and a good neighbor, and talked about his military service and his business.
“I have learned my lesson, your honor,” Richardson said. “I was going down as a patriotic citizen to celebrate. ... I just want to go back to my life.”