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Man sentenced to 5 years for assaulting officers during Capitol riot

A Florida man will spend five years in prison after assaulting multiple officers during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Prosecutors say this image shows Bonawitz attacking two police officers during Capitol insurrection.
Posted at 8:09 AM, Jan 18, 2024

A man who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, received a five-year sentence from a federal judge on Wednesday. 

Kenneth Bonawitz, a resident of Pompano Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty in August to three felony charges, including civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, and assaulting a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.

The Department of Justice said Bonawitz was among those who entered the U.S. Capitol complex during a joint session of Congress to certify the results of the 2020 election and was among the first rioters to push past police. The DOJ said he hurled himself at two Capitol police officers, knocking both of them over and injuring one of them. 

Prosecutors said after police escorted him away, officers took an 8-inch hunting knife attached to his belt from Bonawitz. Bonawitz was released back into the crowd, where he almost immediately confronted additional officers, assaulting four of them.

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Prosecutors said body-worn camera footage captured Bonawitz's actions.

"As rioters pushed back against the police, Bonawitz shoved an officer, causing the officer to stumble forward," the Justice Department said. "When the officer turned to face Bonawitz, he wrapped his arms around the officer from behind, inserted his forearm under the officer’s shield, then put the officer in a chokehold. He briefly lifted the officer off the ground and caused the officer to gag before struggling free of his grip.

After pleading guilty to the charges, Bonawitz gave an interview to "Flip the Switch w/ Jenn," where he explained his actions. Prosecutors used his words against him during sentencing. 

"The only thing that the TV is going to show is the worst of the patriots who were there. They’re not going to show the better part where we’re trying to protect police officers who had fallen and stuff like that," Bonawitz said. 

The Department of Justice fired back at Bonawitz's claims.

"In that interview, the defendant made statements which contradict the video evidence and contradict the statement of offense to which he swore and which formed the basis of his plea," the DOJ said in its sentencing filing. 

Also providing a statement during sentencing was Capitol Police Sgt. Federico A. Ruiz, who was injured during the attack. 

"As a direct result of Bonawitz’s actions I have been sentenced to a lifetime of medical issues that include physical pain and mental and emotional distress," Ruiz said. "There is not a day that goes by that pain, discomfort, and/or a mental health issue do not flare up to remind me of that day and how Bonawitz assaulted me."

Following his five years in prison, Bonawitz will spend three years in a supervised release, the court ruled.