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Man who used megaphone to lead attack on police during Capitol riot gets over 7 years in prison

This image from police body-worn camera video, contained and annotated in the Justice Department's government's sentencing memorandum supporting the sentencing of Taylor James Johnatakis, shows Johnatakis at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Johnatakis, of Washington state, who used a megaphone to orchestrate a mob’s attack on police officers guarding the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced on Wednesday to more than seven years in prison. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said videos captured Johnatakis playing a leadership role during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. (Department of Justice via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Washington state man who used a megaphone to orchestrate a mob’s attack on police officers guarding the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Wednesday to more than seven years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said videos captured Taylor James Johnatakis playing a leadership role during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. Johnatakis led other rioters on a charge against a police line, “barked commands” over his megaphone and shouted step-by-step directions for overpowering officers, the judge said.

“In any angry mob, there are leaders and there are followers. Mr. Johnatakis was a leader. He knew what he was doing that day,” the judge said before sentencing him to seven years and three months behind bars.

Johnatakis, who represented himself with an attorney on standby, has repeatedly expressed rhetoric that appears to be inspired by the anti-government “ sovereign citizen ” movement. He asked the judge questions at his sentencing, including, “Does the record reflect that I repent in my sins?”

Lamberth, who referred to some of Johnatakis' words as “gobbledygook," said, “I'm not answering questions here.”

Prosecutors recommended a nine-year prison sentence for Johnatakis, a self-employed installer of septic systems.

“Johnatakis was not just any rioter; he led, organized, and encouraged the assault of officers at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

A jury convicted him of felony charges after a trial last year in Washington, D.C.

Johnatakis, 40, of Kingston, Washington, had a megaphone strapped to his back when he marched to the Capitol from then-President Donald Trump's “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House on Jan. 6.

“It’s over,” he shouted at the crowd of Trump supporters. “Michael Pence has voted against the president. We are down to the nuclear option.”

Johnatakis was one of the first rioters to chase a group of police officers who were retreating up stairs outside the Capitol. He shouted and gestured for other rioters to “pack it in" and prepare to attack.

Johnatakis shouted “Go!” before he and other rioters shoved a metal barricade into a line of police officers. He also grabbed an officer's arm.

“The crime is complete,” Johnatakis posted on social media several hours after he left the Capitol.

He was arrested in February 2021. He has been jailed since November 2023, when jurors convicted him of seven counts, including obstruction of the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress that certified Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory. The jury also convicted him of assault and civil disorder charges.

Justice Department prosecutor Courtney Howard said Johnatakis hasn't expressed any sincere remorse or accepted responsibility for his crimes on Jan. 6.

“He's going so far as to portray himself as a persecuted victim.,” she said.

Last April, Lamberth ordered a psychologist to examine Johnatakis and determine if he was mentally competent to stand trial. The judge ultimately ruled that Johnatakis could understand the proceedings and assist in his defense.

Approximately 1,350 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds getting terms of imprisonment ranging from several days to 22 years.

FILE - Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Taylor James Johnatakis of Washington state, who used a megaphone to orchestrate a mob’s attack on police officers guarding the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced on Wednesday to more than seven years in prison. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said videos captured Johnatakis playing a leadership role during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)