WASHINGTON D.C. — A Montana man has been convicted of assaulting law enforcement during the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
This week a bench trial was held for Isaac Steve Sturgeon of Dillon and co-defendant Craig Bingert of Pennsylvania before United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Royce C. Lamberth. In a bench trial, which both defendants agreed to, the judge rather than a jury weighs the evidence and testimony for a verdict.
Lamberth found both men guilty on seven counts related to their actions that day. The charges are Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers; Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting; Civil Disorder; Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds; Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds; Engaging in Physical Violence in a Restricted Building or Grounds; and Engaging in an Act of Physical Violence in the Grounds or Any of the Capitol Buildings.
According to court documents, Sturgeon was seen on an officer's body-worn camera outside the Capitol and was part of a group that picked up a metal barricade and shoved it into a group of D.C. Metropolitan Police officers. In that video, Sturgeon could also be heard shouting “push” as he and others push the barricade into officers.
Video allegedly recorded on Sturgeon’s phone and submitted to evidence showed people running from the police line as tear gas was deployed and showed law enforcement in riot gear. Lamberth said this clearly demonstrated Sturgeon was aware the area was restricted.
“The defendants have a right to believe whatever they liked about the 2020 Presidential Election, and to voice those opinions,” Lamberth stated in his reasoning. “But the First Amendment does not give anyone a right to obstruct or impede Congress by making it impossible for them to do their jobs safely. And it certainly does not give anyone a right to riot, assault police officers, or enter restricted areas.”
Text messages from Sturgeon submitted as evidence seem to indicate Sturgeon viewed his actions during the riot as a “last stand.”
Sturgeon’s defense had tried to argue that he took former President Donald Trump’s speech that day to heart, and was only acting in what he believed were the former president’s direct orders.
“Belief that your actions are ultimately serving a greater good does not negate consciousness of wrongdoing,” wrote Lamberth in direct response.
Sturgeon was arrested at the JFK International Airport in March 2021 after being deported from Kenya. He told authorities that he wasn’t trying to flee and witnesses said that Sturgeon traveled frequently. A search of his name shows Sturgeon had been stuck in Morocco at the start of the pandemic, but received help in returning to the U.S.
Sentencing for Sturgeon has been set for August 25, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. Mountain Time.