Man who beat officer with flagpole during Capitol riot is sentenced to over 4 years in prison

24 July 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Arkansas truck driver who beat a police officer with a flagpole attached to an American flag during the U.S. Capitol riot was sentenced Monday to more than four years in prison.

Peter Francis Stager struck the Metropolitan Police Department officer with his flagpole at least three times as other rioters pulled the officer, head first, into the crowd outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The bruised officer was among more than 100 police officers injured during the riot.

Stager also stood over and screamed profanities at another officer, who was seriously injured when several other rioters dragged him into the mob and beat him, according to federal prosecutors.

After the beatings, Stager was captured on video saying, “Every single one of those Capitol law enforcement officers, death is the remedy. That is the only remedy they get.”

U.S. Judge Rudolph Contreras sentenced Stager to four years and four months in prison, according to a spokesperson for the prosecutors’ office.

Stager, 44, of Conway, Arkansas, pleaded guilty in February to a felony charge of assaulting police with a dangerous weapon.

Prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of six years and six months.

Stager assaulted the officer during one of the most violent episodes of Jan. 6 — a battle between rioters and police guarding an entrance to the Capitol building in a tunnel on the Lower West Terrace.

Stager’s actions at the Capitol “were the epitome of disrespect for the law,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

“Stager joined a prolonged, multi-assailant attack on police officers, which resulted in injuries to the officers,” they wrote. “Stager himself wielded a flagpole and used it to strike at a vulnerable officer, who, lying face down in a mob of rioters had no means of defending himself.”

Stager’s truck driving job took him to Washington, D.C., on the day before then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. Stager stayed overnight to attend Trump’s rally after delivering a load of produce, a decision that he will regret for the rest of his life, his lawyers said in a court filing.

Stager’s attorneys say he tried to help others in the crowd who were injured after the riot erupted. Shocked by what he saw, Stager had “reached his breaking point” and was “seeing red” when he picked up a flag on the ground, they said.

“Once the adrenaline wore off, Mr. Stager immediately called his wife to tell her he was horrified by his actions and that he was going to turn himself in upon returning to Arkansas,” his lawyers wrote.

More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Over 620 of them have pleaded guilty. Approximately 100 others have been convicted by juries or judges after trials. Nearly 600 have been sentenced, with over half receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 18 years.

Stager was indicted with eight other defendants on charges related to the tunnel battle. Four of his co-defendants also have pleaded guilty to assault charges.

Florida resident Mason Courson was sentenced in June to four years and nine months in prison. Michigan resident Logan Barnhart was sentenced in April to three years in prison. Georgia business owner Jack Wade Whitton is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 16.

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